A unique series, the first outside an accredited Test-playing nation, starts in this gulf state today against a background of intrigue and controversy.
Throughout their two Tests and three one-day internationals at the Sharjah Stadium, a shift to a neutral venue only grudgingly agreed to by the host Pakistan Cricket Board on the West Indies' insistence, the players are to be watched by closed-circuit cameras in their hotel foyer and outside their dressing-rooms from which mobile phones are banned.
The extreme measures are part of the International Cricket Council's drive to deter players from dealings with bookmakers that led to the life bans for match-fixing against the former Test captains Hansie Cronje, of South Africa, and Mohammed Azharuddin, of India.
On the field, the players' behaviour is to be monitored by Mike Denness, the former England captain whose disciplinary action against six Indians in the last Test at which he was referee, in South Africa in November, led to a tense stand-off between their board and the ICC.
The Indian board president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, demanded Denness's withdrawal for the following, and final Test, and, while the South Africans acceded, the ICC responded by declaring the match unofficial. The ICC has set up a committee to review the match referee's terms of reference but Dalmiya will doubtless see Denness' commission, even before the committee has met, as deliberate provocation.
Denness, who has refereed 12 Tests and 32 one-day internationals, is not fazed by the fuss over his November rulings. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over and done with and my mind is totally focused on this tournament," he said yesterday.
It is ironic that the PCB chose Sharjah after the West Indies Cricket Board all but refused to send its team to Pakistan because of concern over the uncertain military situation on its borders: to the west with Afghanistan and to the east with Kashmir.
Sharjah was cited in Condon's first report to the ICC as the main centre of illegal gambling on the game. It has held more one-day internationals than any other ground since the stadium was erected on the edge of the desert, most involving India and Pakistan, but never a Test or first-class match.
Pakistan's international cricket since their tour in England ended in June has been confined to two Tests and three one-day internationals in Bangladesh this month, but they start as favourites against opponents who have lost 21 of their last 25 Tests overseas and who are without Brian Lara. He is recovering from a dislocated and fractured elbow sustained on the tour of Sri Lanka in December.
West Indies: C L Hooper (capt), C H Gayle, D Ganga, S L Campbell, W W Hinds, S Chanderpaul, R O Hinds, R D Jacobs (wkt), M Dillon, C E Cuffy, P T Collins.
Pakistan (from): Waqar Younis (capt), Shahid Afridi, Taufiq Umar, Younis Khan, Yousaf Youhanna, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Abdur Razzaq, Rashid Latif, Saqlain Mushtaq, Danesh Kaneira, Shaoaib Akhtar, Mohammed Sami, Naved Latif, Faizal Iqbal and Mohammed Zahid.
Umpires: Riazuddin (Pakistan), G Sharp (England).
Match referee: M H Denness.Reuse content