While not quite in a "must-win situation," both Pakistan and the West Indies know that their paths to the quarterfinals of the 2015 Cricket World Cup will be severely complicated if they fall to defeat when the two sides meet at the Hagley Oval, in Christchurch on Saturday. Simply rebuilding confidence will be key after morale-bashing defeats endured by both to open the tournament.
Pakistan’s loss to India was no great surprise, with the result going the same way as each of the fierce rivals’ previous five contests at World Cups. Should Pakistan need convincing that a defeat to their neighbors is not terminal for their hopes in the tournament, they need only look at what happened in both 1992 and 1999 when a loss to India was still followed by a run to the final. But the result will be no less painful.
Pakistan went down by 76 runs in Adelaide, having failed to chase down India’s total of 300. In response, Pakistan struggled, with only captain Misbah-ul-Haq holding the chase together with a score of 76. But, fueled by Pakistan taking five wickets in five overs at the tail-end of India’s innings, Misbah remains optimistic going forward.
“The way we played in the last two games I think we can really go on and win the coming games,” he said, reports ESPN CricInfo. “The confidence is not that much down. A lot of positives even today in the death overs the way we bowled.
"We need to improve a little bit on taking wickets on a regular basis in the middle overs, and then we need to really bat well. It's important for us to concentrate on the games that are coming. If you keep on thinking about the game that is gone now it's really difficult for you to perform well. So I think we really need to win the coming game and perform well. That's the only way to stay in the tournament.”
But the preparations have hardly been ideal for their second match. The Pakistan Cricket Board was compelled to issue a statement insisting that fielding coach Grant Luden was remaining with the team, after strong reports of a rift between the South African and the players.
Pakistan’s next opponents know all about disharmony in the camp. Once again the West Indies came into a major tournament embroiled in controversy and turmoil. On this occasion, two of the team’s leading players Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard were left at home. Continuing the fall from their reign as the dominant force in world cricket during the 1970s and 1980s, the West Indies’ World Cup got off to the worst possible start with defeat to Ireland.
“We took them for granted and we paid the price,” all-rounded Darren Sammy said, according to the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian. “If we continue to play like that we won’t be here for long that is for sure. As a group we need to find some motivation somewhere and find it quickly. When things are going wrong it is hard to motivate but we can’t give up.”
Having lost to one of the non-test nations, and with Pool B favorites India and South Africa still to play, the match with Pakistan could well be crucial to the West Indies’ hopes of finishing in the top four of a group that also includes Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates.
“You win four out of five or four out of six and you can still get into quarters,” Sammy added. “We still believe we can make it into the top four of this group, we just have to put a full game of cricket together.”
Prediction: This match really could go either way, with both sides unpredictable and capable of performing to a high standard on their day. But Pakistan should have enough to get their first win.
Match time: Saturday, 11 a.m. local time, Friday, 5 p.m. EST.
TV channel: DISH Network, Mediacom and Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch the match via pay per view. More info here.