By Shahid Hashmi
Pakistan team is ready for the first Test after some serious problems on selection with the selection committee, team management and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq pulling in different directions.
The main bone of contention was the recall of Sohail Khan who was unjustly not selected for the Twenty20 or one-day series against the West Indies despite being the highest wicket-taker in the Pakistan Super League.
The team management, notably the head coach Mickey Arthur, was not in favour of the right-arm pacer who in their opinion, despite improved fitness, is a liability in the field.
But after injury to Hasan Ali and serious doubts over his featuring in any of the three Tests, the management initially wanted left-armer Rahat Ali.
But the selection committee objected as Rahat was not played in the last two Tests in Australia. Then unfortunately Rahat also fell unfit and Sohail became the next choice.
Team management again objected as Sohail is blamed for not backing up in the second innings of a Test. His record proves that. Since the day-night Test in Dubai his record is 1, 0, 2, 0, 3, 0 and 4, 0, meaning he only takes wickets in the first innings and the wicket column in the second innings is blank.
There was a demand for Mohammad Hafeez as well after he scored well in the ODIs and an added advantage of bowling but that too is still unaccepted – at least for the first Test.
So skipper Misbah-ul-Haq is left with only choice of playing with four regular bowlers and his choice seems to be Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Abbas as three fast bowlers and Yasir Shah as the only spinner.
On the other hand West Indies will have the advantage of playing with two spinners as their all-rounder Roston Chase is a handy off-break bowler who will supplement Devendra Bishoo.
Chase hit a match-saving 137 not out against India on this same Sabina Park ground in July last year.
Sabina Park has seen many historic matches, with the first-ever Test triple century scored at this ground, way back in 1930 by England’s Andy Sandham. When Pakistan played here for the first time in 1958 Sir Gary Sobers hit the then highest Test score of 365 not out.
When Pakistan and West Indies come against each other on Friday it will be the 50th Test at Sabina Park. West Indies have won 23 of the 49 Tests here so far, losing 12 and drawing the remaining 14. Pakistan have won only one of the three Tests here. Their win came under Inzamam-ul-Haq in 2005 when Younis Khan struck a hundred.
The recent four-day matches here shows the Sabina Park pitch helps spinners with left-armer Nikita Miller taking most of the wickets. In one match Miller took nine in an innings while leg-spinners Damion Joseph and Imran Khan have also been amongst wickets.
But the last match here, between March 17-19, was a low scoring affair with Jamica shot out for 56 and 114 and their opponents Leeward Islanad scoring 71 and 133.
Fast bowler Alzari Joseph, who is in the West Indies squad, took seven wickets in that game.
Pakistan’s main highlights are that this first Test will be the beginning of the end for Misbah and Younis who will retire after this series. A 3-0 win will consolidate Pakistan’s fifth position in the Test rankings.
So a lot to play for in this first Test.