Hosts West Indies will have added incentives for winning their back-to-back T20 assignments against Pakistan this weekend, the first of which bowls off this afternoon from 2 p.m. at Arnos Vale Cricket Ground in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The teams face each other again tomorrow at the same venue.
The regional team is keen to get back to winning ways, having been whipped 3-1 in their just-concluded One-Day International series by the same opponents. That fact, added to their desire to protect their reputation as World T20 champions, leaves them even more motivated to pip Pakistan.
For captain Darren Sammy, the regional team needs to “play like champs” this weekend.
“The World Cup is next year, I think we have five T20s before the World Cup,” Sammy told the media yesterday ahead of the first encounter. ”We’re looking to maximise our opportunity here, probably if we win both matches, to go to number one, overtake Sri Lanka. It’s very important. As a team we are not going to look at it any other way.”
Stretching back to their World Cup campaign in Sri Lanka last year, West Indies’ T20 record boasts just one loss in their last ten matches.
That came at the hands of Sri Lanka in the group stage of the World Cup, where they also had a no-result against Ireland due to rain, and a tie against New Zealand that they won on a super over. The other seven results are wins over England Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
Sammy wants that hot streak to continue.
“We’re looking to extend that (streak) and improve our ranking,” the regional skipper stated. “(As) world champions, we deserve to be number one. It’s all in our hands, the way we come out and play here over the weekend, and make a claim towards being the number one T20 team in the world.”
The squad has few surprises in it; Jason Holder, Kemar Roach and Devon Smith from the ODI team make way for pacer Shannon Gabriel, leg-spinner Samuel Badree and middle order batsman Christopher Barnwell.
Sammy feels he has a good combination of players for what he termed a “145-160 [runs] wicket”, and is banking on his bowlers to restrict the opposition.
The hard-hitting all-rounder also said there would be no problems adjusting to the T20 format from ODIs.
“I came here and I almost forgot I was captain,” Sammy said in reference to the fact that Dwayne Bravo has replaced him as ODI skipper, “but with that said, it’s a role I cherish and respect, I have a lot of respect for the guys in the dressing room; you have to have a lot of respect for whoever is in charge.”
Also a concern for the team is the poor form of opener Chris Gayle. The powerful Jamaican has produced no more than a start since bludgeoning a century against Sri Lanka in the opening match of the recent tri-nation One-Day series that also featured India.
Gayle is fully aware of this and hoping to turn things around today.
“I’m sure they’re keen to see some sixes, not only sixes but runs on the board from Chris Gayle,” he stated. “It’s a new format, hopefully I can get off to a good start here and give the St Vincent fans something to cheer about, and the people watching around the Caribbean and around the world looking to see some fireworks. Hopefully we can get that tomorrow and look forward to Sunday’s game as well.”
Gayle is also hoping to see West Indies play the type of cricket that won them World T20.
The Windies will know they have to get things right today, or it will be impossible to win the two-match series.
West Indies – Darren Sammy (captain), Samuel Badree, Christopher Barnwell, Tino Best, Johnson Charles, Shannon Gabriel, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons.
Pakistan – Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Ahmed Shazad, Asad Ali, Hammad Azam, Haris Sohail, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Nasir Jamshed, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Wahab Riaz,