Christchurch, New Zealand: After defeats in their opening matches, the Pakistan and the West Indies squads have created nearly must-win situations for themselves on Saturday if they have any hope of making the Cricket World Cup quarterfinals.
Ahead of the Pool B match at Hagley Oval, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq was mildly critical of some of his batsmen who didn't produce in the 76-run loss to arch-rival India.
Pakistan batting great Javed Miandad wasn't so subtle, criticizing a "lack of planning from the Pakistan think-tank for such a mega event."
Pakistan elevated Younis Khan to open and relied on part-time wicketkeeper Umar Akmal to bolster the batting lineup against India. Both decisions backfired.
"I can't remember a weaker Pakistan side," Miandad said in a commissioned article posted Friday on the tournament's website. "It's not because other teams have got stronger, but because Pakistan has ignored more deserving players like Shoaib Malik, Azhar Ali and Zulfiqar Babar."
The West Indies lineup came in for heavy criticism from inside and outside the Caribbean following its opening four-wicket loss to Ireland.
All-rounder Darren Sammy said the two-time champion West Indies weren't really prepared for such a fine performance from an Associates, or second-tier, Ireland lineup — "We took them for granted and we paid the price."
He all but admitted the Caribbean squad needed to beat 1992 champion Pakistan or its World Cup might be over.
"If we continue to play like that we won't be here for long that is for sure," Sammy said. "As a group we need to find some motivation somewhere, and find it quickly."
The top four teams in each of two seven-team pools qualify for the quarterfinals. Pakistan and the West Indies are at the bottom of the Pool B standings, behind the fourth-place United Arab Emirates on net run rate.
Miandad questioned the Pakistan team management's decision to have veteran middle-order batsman Younis open the batting.
"Using Younis as an opening batsman is an injustice to such a talented batsman," Miandad wrote. "The top four batting spots are specialist slots ... if Younis has to be slotted in the playing XI, then he should come down the order when the ball gets a bit old."
With Pakistan chasing 301 to win against India, Younis was out for six in Adelaide. Akmal was dismissed for a duck — one of three batsmen removed for the addition of one run within nine balls as Pakistan slumped to 103-5 — and dropped a regulation catch as the stand-in wicketkeeper.
"Pakistan might persist with Umar Akmal in dual roles of wicketkeeper-batsman against the West Indies," Miandad added. "But the sooner they bring back Sarfraz Ahmed the better."
Misbah was more diplomatic ahead of his team's match at the West Indies.
"The guys who are not chipping in need to come in and do well, that's a normal part of the game," Misbah said. "The guys who are not at the moment performing, we know that they're good enough players and they can just come to the party in the next games."
Misbah admitted Pakistan was missing offspinner Saeed Ajmal, who ruled himself out of the World Cup after deciding not to go for official testing of his suspect bowling action.
"He's a world-class bowler," Misbah said. "He was doing really well before this World Cup ... playing a major role in our victories. It's a little bit difficult when you're used to somebody for three or four years."
Still, Misbah took confidence from the way Pakistan bowled at the end against India, which was on track for a 320-plus total but scored only 27 in the last five overs and lost 4-16 with Sohail Khan (5-55) doing most of the damage.
"There were a lot of positives," he said. "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."