3-0 in T20s, 3-0 in ODIs. Things couldn't get any better for Pakistan, and any worse for West Indies. And so, as the teams face-off in Dubai in the first Test, one team would be hoping for their fortunes to remain the same, and the other would be desperate for reversal in results. The match would be historic in the sense that it will be the first day-night Test for both Pakistan and West Indies. The inaugural day-night Test in Adelaide between Australia and New Zealand was a big success if the numbers are anything to go by. The only change this time of course is the black seam, prepared with the hope of providing better visibility.
Batting has let down West Indies in a big way. And, given the greater challenge on offer in the Tests, there are only expected to struggle even more. The series will be a trial by spin more than anything else for the visitors. From the start of the series, it has been stated that the experienced batsmen need to stand up and deliver. But, that just hasn't been the case. Senior statesman Marlon Samuels has been the biggest disappointment of all. He has been retained only because the Windies lack options. Opener Kraigg Braithwaite and Darren Bravo are the two key performers in the batting department. Among the new generation, runs will be expected from Roston Chase and Jermaine Blackwood.
West Indies' bowlers also are likely to have a tough time. One, because the members of the squad lack the experience of the conditions, and two because Pakistan's batsmen are now seasoned campaigners performing the middle-east. Of the Windies bowlers, Shannon Gabriel has impressed in recent times, but the conditions will test him for sure. Then, there is the newcomer Alzarri Joseph, who has impressed on the junior scene, and is looking to make the transition. Miguel Cummins has tasted some success in recent times, so he could find a place. Among the spinners, both Devendra Bishoo and Jomel Warrican are expected to play while Chase can also chip in with off spin.
Pakistan will go into the series on a high for multiple reasons. Obviously, their form in the T20s and ODIs has been hugely encouraging. But, their recent Test form is what will give them additional advantage. Their previous Test assignment was the tough tour of England, and they made a real impression, holding the Englishmen to a 2-2 draw. Briefly, they also held the number one ranking owing to their performance. Pakistan will miss veteran Younis Khan, who won't be available due to his off-field battle with dengue fever. But, Pakistan have the men who can trouble West Indies in all departments. All they need to do is play to potential.
The biggest threat that Pakistan will pose to West Indies is obviously with spin. Yasir Shah had a mixed tour of England. But, even there he shone in matches that Pakistan won. In helpful conditions, and against a hapless batting outfit, he should prove doubly dangerous. Zulfiqar Babar is the other slow bowler, who will be expected to give good support to Shah. In the batting, Pakistan have chosen Babar Azam following his stupendous showing in the one-dayers. Among other batsmen, skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali and Sarfaraz Ahmed all are in form. But, the struggling opening pair of Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood have been dropped. This is the only weak area for Pakistan.
--By A Cricket Analyst