Pakistan are the favourites

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 23, 2011 05:08 hrs

And so the long drawn out league phase is over, and we can get down to the real business. The tournament has panned out as the ICC would have wanted it to, with the top eight teams in the quarterfinals and there have been few surprises in that regard.

The most balanced team has been South Africa, and now it is a matter of putting it all together on the day. South Africa have the best bowling line-up, with two very good fast bowlers, an experienced medium-pacer and three spinners to pick from. Once again, I have to stress that Imran Tahir has given them a distinct edge.

South Africa have progressed smoothly, but if there is one player they would like to get more out of it is the captain Graeme Smith. He has been totally out of sorts and that has put a lot of pressure on Hashim Amla. If Smith can sort himself out, and South Africa maintain their intensity, they will remain favourites.

The eight World Cup quarter-finalists

But let's get down to immediate business, and that is today's quarterfinal in Mirpur. West Indies have been very predictable with their batting, in that they keep falling apart. The top five batsmen have all performed to some degree, but West Indies need a player like Shivnarine Chanderpaul back in the XI.

They need a player of his ability to spend time at the crease so that the flashier strokemakers can play around him. Ramnaresh Sarwan attempted that in the last two matches but he has not been as reliable as Chanderpaul in that role.

Devon Smith has acquitted himself well in the opener's role. He batted well against Netherlands, but you expect that against the Associates. It was impressive to see him go out and do well in the games after that, and in a way the Netherlands match was a good launching pad for Smith.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with Kieron Pollard who did well against Ireland but went back to square one against the Test nations. With Smith, it's been a
case of so far so good but the real test is tomorrow, in a knock-out situation.

A lot depends on Chris Gayle and Kemar Roach at the start of both innings and I am eagerly awaiting news of their fitness and what XI the management opts for. If West Indies get it right and field their best possible XI, there will be no room for the captain Darren Sammy. Like Nasser Hussain said recently, Sammy has one role - to come and flip the coin at the toss, and in that role he has still not managed to win a toss.

Pakistan unpredictable, West Indies inconsistent

If Roach is fit, he will automatically spearhead the attack and the way Andre Russell has performed in two games and the way Ravi Rampaul bowled on Sunday, these two must slot in. Russell also batted very well, and Rampaul was fast and furious against India. Suleiman Benn will be the spinner, and that leaves no room for Sammy. He doesn't have pace, he doesn't bat, and the way Roach and Russell and Rampaul have played, Sammy doesn't warrant a place in the side.

This is how the West Indies Cricket Board has gone about selecting a captain and painted themselves into a corner. They now have their backs against the wall and the situation will only get worse when the team returns home and Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards are fit for selection. Yet again, West Indies succeed in confounding with their selection.

As for Pakistan, they look the better side because they haven't had as much dilemma in selecting the XI. Kamran Akmal seems to have gotten over his wicketkeeping woes, temporarily, and should open given how bad Ahmed Shehzad has been. The batting picks itself, and given that Wahab Riaz stepped up from the bench and did his job adequately, there is no point dropping him for an unfit Shoaib Akhtar.

The spinners have also been good, and in that department Pakistan have an embarrassment of riches. Abdur Rehman isn't a big spinner of the ball but he's gone about his work manfully, though I believe there may be case of Saeed Ajmal who has a better record and looks a bigger turner of the ball. He's a valuable asset and Pakistan may think hard about drafting him in.

World Cup 2011

The Mirpur surface has assisted turn traditionally, but we saw when West Indies and South Africa played there how the wickets were shared between pace and spin. It may be the case that we see more pace and bounce, now that Bangladesh, whose strength is spin, have been eliminated.

Pakistan have been more consistent, though we know that both teams are capable of imploding and can be equally rubbish on the day. Final word?
There is no doubt that Pakistan are the favourites.

Professional Management Group

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