Pakistan and West Indies are two troubled teams who will be badly in need of respite via victory when they meet in World Cup Pool B in Christchurch on Friday night.
Both were beaten in their opening match, Pakistan losing face in defeat against arch-rivals India in Adelaide and the Windies getting their campaign off to a miserable start when they lost to Ireland in Nelson. Christchurch will therefore prove a sanctuary for one, and the site of yet more soul-searching for the other.
West Indies all-rounder Darren Sammy knows they must put things right after the Irleand defeat. “We took them for granted and we paid the price,” he said. “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.”
The Windies’ preparation for the tournament was beset by the disenchantment of several senior players, apparently emanating from the dispute which saw the team pull out mid-tour of their trip to India last year, and the subsequent decision to leave Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard out of the World Cup squad.
Former captain Brian Lara is among those aghast at events. Lara said: “I believe we have shot ourselves in the foot – and had the people who selected our team seen the World Cup for the prestigious tournament it is, both Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo would have been in Australia and New Zealand. It is hard to understand the reasons why they are absent. It’s a self-inflicted blow, for sure.”
While the West Indies must somehow try to get back on track, Pakistan seem to be in trouble, too.
Before the tournament began, the Pakistan Cricket Board made early waves with a diktat banning players from using social media websites such as Twitter.
On a warm-up visit to Christchurch, batsman Haris Sohail was unavailable after he claimed to have been spooked by a ghost during the night in his hotel room.
Since then, a broken curfew by several players led to fines, and most recently a reported disagreement between several others and fielding coach Grant Luden was followed by news that the latter had resigned – only for the PCB to then state: “The news is absolutely false, and nothing of the sort has happened.”
An overdue win will be priceless for one beleaguered line-up at the Hagley Oval. “The confidence is not that much down,” said Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq. “There were a lot of positives in the death overs the way we bowled against India.
“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. We really need to win the coming game and perform well. That’s the only way to stay in the tournament.”
Both Pakistan and the West Indies know that their paths to the quarter-finals will be severely complicated if they fall to defeat. Simply rebuilding confidence will be the key.