Friday, February 23, 2018

Captain Bravo looks for bright homecoming

In Dwayne Bravo’s own words, “I’ll be playing tomorrow.”

Tomorrow, is today, and the Queen’s Park Oval is the scene for what will be a decisive match in the Celkon tri nation One-day International series. It will also be West Indies 50-over captain Bravo’s first in charge of the regional team on his home ground.

More importantly, West Indies face India knowing that victory will confirm them in the final against Sri Lanka, and defeat for world champions India would leave them winless after three games and virtually eliminated.

Bravo’s presence in today’s match has been in doubt because of the groin injury which ruled him out of his team’s second match, against the Indians, which the West Indies won by just one wicket.

Allrounder Bravo did bat in the nets yesterday, but limited himself to throw-downs at brother Darren, rather than attempt to bowl.

But speaking to the media yesterday, the skipper was determined not to miss out on leading his side on home turf.

“I’ve had four days of treatment, I’m feeling in a much better position than I was Sunday gone... I’m looking forward to leading the team, first time at home. It’s gonna be a great atmosphere.”

One sign near a ticket booth at the Oval yesterday gave notice that today’s match and Sunday’s encounter between the Windies and Sri Lanka have been sold out.

It will therefore be a full and expectant Oval that will be hoping to see Bravo’s side extend their two-match unbeaten streak to three—a rarity for West Indies in this format in recent times.

For India however, led by Virat Kohli in place of the hamstrung Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the aim will be to prevent an embarrassing and likely tournament-fatal third successive loss. The World Cup and ICC Champions Trophy winners have not been accustomed to such setbacks lately. But in Jamaica, they were outgunned by Sri Lanka’s openers in a mammoth 161-run loss that decimated their net run rate.

Their batting, so potent in the Champions Trophy, failed to fire on the slow tracks at Sabina Park. But Kohli and company will back themselves to get it together today on an Oval pitch which Bravo reckons, based on matches here earlier this season, “will be a very good cricket wicket”.

By contrast, West Indies have prospered thus far because of substantial contributions at the top of the order. In the opening six-wicket win against the Sri Lankans, Gayle’s 109 set up the victory, while his opening partner Johnson Charles batted through to the 41st over for 97 which proved to be the difference in a tense run chase against India in the second game. His fourth wicket partnership of 116 with Darren Bravo was decisive.

Stability in their batting will likely be key again today.

“We’ve been good in different patches...It’s important that come tomorrow that we give a good showing, batters bat deep, get runs, bowlers do the right things,” Bravo said. “We are in a good position to make it to the finals but we are not going to sit back and relax. The more we win it is the better we become as a team and that’s our aim.”

Bravo was high in praise of his stand-in on Sunday, Kieron Pollard.

“He has a very good cricketing brain and he should be a future leader. It’s good that we have good leaders in our setup,” he said.

But Bravo is not interested in watching Pollard from the pavilion today.

“It’s like a dream come true for me. It’s always good to play in the Oval. But to be the captain of the West Indies team is something special...All the feedback has been good, everything has been positive. Once it’s good weather, we guys gonna come out and give a good showing of ourselves.”

The weather is forecasted to be good. And so should be the cricket.


West Indies from: Dwayne Bravo (Captain), Tino Best, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (WK), Kemar Roach, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Devon Smith

India from: Virat Kohli (Captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik (WK) Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra, Shami Ahmed, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav