Intense heat will test players when Pakistan host the West Indies in a three-match limited-overs international series in Multan starting on Wednesday.
The Pakistan Cricket Board had to relocate the series to Multan from Rawalpindi last week because of the uncertain political situation in the country. The opposition, led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, is planning rallies in the federal capital Islamabad, which is adjacent to Rawalpindi.
The temperature is expected to top 45 degrees Celsius this week in Multan, and organisers have pushed back the starting time for games to 4pm local time to give some respite.
The Pakistan Cricket Board also planned to provide players with ice collars and vests during stoppages in play and extra water breaks to keep them hydrated.
“The heat is going to be extreme, (but) Pakistan are playing in the heat, too, so it’s going to be an even contest when we start the day,” said Windies coach Phil Simmons on Tuesday.
“How we deal with it before, during and after is going to help us a lot.”
West Indies are coming off a 3-0 series win over Netherlands last week at Amstelveen, where their top-order batters scored prolifically.
The two spinners, Akeal Hosein and Hayden Walsh Junior, took the bulk of the wickets,.
West Indies will be strengthened with the return of Rovman Powell and Romario Shepherd, who both missed the series against the Netherlands because of visa issues.
“That series was good in a way because it gave guys a chance to settle in as a team,” Simmons said. “It’s a young team. We needed to keep improving and we did that during the series.”
The Pakistan squad has spent a week in Lahore, where the weather is similar to Multan. Captain Babar Azam hoped the players were well prepared.
“Definitely it is hot, but we are having a conditioning camp and acclimatising to the weather,” Babar said. “As a professional, you have to handle these situations. We do go out to other countries to play, and even during our time in the UAE, we used to face similar temperatures.
“I don’t think it will be a problem.”
Pakistan have a strong top-order batting line-up with the likes of left-handers Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman opening the innings. Babar, in the middle-order, is in the form of his life and has scored prolifically in all the three formats.
Vice-captain Shadab Khan and allrounder Mohammad Nawaz are returning to the ODI team from injuries. Pakistan also have a formidable fast bowling attack in Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Hasan Ali.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Zahid Mahmood.
West Indies: Nicholas Pooran (captain), Shai Hope, Nkrumah Bonner, Shamarh Brooks, Keacy Carty, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Shermon Lewis, Kyle Mayers, Anderson