Sport

Windies seek to salvage pride in T20 showdown with India

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 09, 2017

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It will be a star-studded West Indies line-up against a high-riding India outfit — a perfect combination for what should be a delightful Finolex Pipes Twenty20 International at Sabina Park today.

This may be a one-off contest, but it promises to be the most evenly matched fixture of the Indian tour, as this represents the West Indies' strongest format of the game.

With the likes of local stars Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, alongside Kieron Pollard and others, adding some impetus to the regional side, the excitement is expected to be peaking from the very first ball at 10:30 am.

Following their 3-1 win in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series on Thursday, India will have the psychological advanntage heading into the game as they aim to finish their tour of the Caribbean on a high.

However, it will be a slightly more difficult task for the Virat Kohli-led squad, as this West Indies unit will prove more formidable when compared to the young Jason Holder-led ODI squad.

The last time the two teams met in a T20, West Indies won the high-scoring nail-biter in Fort Lauderdale by one run. If the teams get anywhere close to the respective scores of 245 and 244 today, then spectators will be in for a treat.

Gayle, who missed out on that Florida contest due to fitness issues, is the only change to the squad that swept Afghanistan last month, replacing Lendl Simmons.

The explosive left-hander's return has been welcomed for more reasons than one, as he will be sporting the regional shirt for the first time in over a year for what will be a special occasion — his first T20 international appearance on home soil.

Captain Carlos Brathwaite assured that the team is in good stead as they prepare to give their best in blood, sweat and tears for the people of the West Indies.

“It is always good to have the boys back; it is just a nice vibe in the dressing room. All the guys come in and we joke around and have fun, but everyone knows when to draw the line. They are all mature guys, so for me as captain it is just about keeping the dressing room as nice and happy as I can and allow the boys the express themselves on the park, so I am looking forward to a good performance tomorrow (today),” Brathwaite told members of the media after a training session at the match venue yesterday.

“The most pleasing thing about the Afghanistan series was the professionalism shown, because it was easy to take our foot off the gas and say it is Afghanistan and probably disrespect them, but credit to the boys they didn't do that. But that is in the past. it is for us to go into this one-off now and do the same thing and come out victorious,” added the World T20 hero in the final against England last year.

West Indies have won four of their last five matches completed, while India has won three of their last five, with the hosts also leading the head-to-head 4-2 after seven matches between the two teams.

And despite India's dominance in the ODI, Brathwaite pointed out that T20 is one format where his team starts on a level playing field against an Indian team which had its foot firmly on the pedal in the ODI.

“We have to concentrate on us. it is not about taking them out of their high gear, but us trying to find our highest gear as best and quickly as possible. There is always a challenge in coming in and playing one game, but most of the guys have done this before and it's a challenge that we look to.

“We signed the contract because we wanted to represent the people of the West Indies and play, so we have to go out there and show it with a good performance,” Brathwaite stated.

“The confidence is always high. you don't see Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels or Kieron Pollard low in confidence; they always think we can win no matter the situation and that rubs off well. I still think I'm one of the younger guys in the team in terms of experience at the international level and we look to those guys, so even as captain I'm still learning from them,” he continued.

Meanwhile, despite the presence of Gayle, who can single-handedly swing fortunes, India's point man Virat Kohli, coming off his 18th ODI century, remains confident.

“We are looking to end the season on a high for sure. we look to play convincing cricket every game that we play because we have that kind of ability in our team, and we look to live up to our ability rather than proving a point to any one or trying to outdo the opposition.

“We look to stick to our strengths and execute those skills, and if it comes off then it feels nice, because we believe that we have the ability in the team to play cricket consistently. Especially in this format we have been a very consistent side, so we would like to take that momentum into the game as well,” Kohli told reporters.

SQUADS:

West Indies — Carlos Brathwaite (Captain), Samuel Badree, Ronsford Beaton, Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton, Kesrick Williams

India –Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (Captain), Yuvraj Singh, Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav

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