Thursday, April 25, 2024

Upbeat WI

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LORD’S – Embattled West Indies enter the opening Test against world No.1 England at Lord’s today facing an avalanche of criticism over a novice top order, patchy preparation and a recent record than has seen them win just one series over top-ranked opposition in three years.
The British media have been as ruthless as they have been calculated in their assault on the Caribbean side’s chances in the three-Test series, and pundits have held out little hope for the Windies against what appears to be a daunting England side in familiar conditions.
Entering the series on the back of a 2-0 loss to Australia – the latest in a long sequence of defeats – West Indies have been dogged by the the late arrival of players, damp, chilly weather that ruined their opening tour match against Sussex and erratic form that resulted in a 10-wicket defeat to England Lions last weekend.
All these factors have combined to leave the Windies as definite underdogs but captain Darren Sammy yesterday expressed faith in his side to compete strongly despite the nature of the challenge.
“This young team has shown the kind of character and attitude that shows signs we could compete and we’ve been competing against top-ranked teams. It’s about getting victories under our belts and that is something that will come when we play more together and believe more in ourselves,” Sammy told a media conference.
“I think we did the best we can [with our preparation]. Our practice matches were affected by rain but the guys got to use the indoors facilities to hit a lot of balls, although it’s different from the actual outdoors. But it’s the conditions which we don’t have control over and the guys made the best use of it.”
West Indies are seeking to overturn a dire record against the hosts in recent years where they have won just two of the last 24 Tests played, while losing 15.
When the tourists were last here three years ago, they were demolished in the two-Test series – losing the first at Lord’s by ten wickets inside three days and the second at Chester-le-Street by an innings.
England have suffered in recent months, however, whitewashed 3-0 by Pakistan and struggling to a 1-1 draw with Sri Lanka on the Asian subcontinent, but Sammy said he did not see this as a sign of weakness.
“They’re No. 1 and we expected them to play like world champions,” Sammy asserted.
“[James] Anderson just got Cricketer Of The Year [in England] and he’s been doing really well. In fact, the whole team, batsmen and bowlers, have been doing well.
“We left the Caribbean knowing it’s going to be a very difficult challenge but we also know that if we can play well and put runs on the board, we back our bowling attack to get 20 wickets and win a Test match.”
The Windies enter the match with a green top order that boasts 41 Tests among them, none of them in English conditions.
And while 22-year-old left-handed opener Kieran Powell got a century at Northampton against the Lions and Bravo picked up half-centuries in either innings, question marks still remain especially against a more experienced England seam attack.
“Seeing off the new ball is very important. In County cricket, batsmen have been having trying times trying to see off the new ball, so asking our youngsters to do that is going to pose a challenge against Anderson and (Stuart) Broad and these guys,” Sammy acknowledged.
“Our batsmen got some match practice in the last four-day game and Powell got a very good hundred, so hopefully he can gather confidence from that and young (Adrian) Barath can come to the party as well.
“They’re young, everybody is still learning on the job so we accept that sometimes these guys will make mistakes but it’s how quickly you learn. Hopefully this Test match could be the turning point.”
The worry that abounded over the fitness of the Windies pace attack seems to have subsided, with Sammy expecting all the players to be available for selection.
“After training this afternoon we will know if we are going to have all hands on deck but like you heard Kemar (Roach) say nothing is going to stop him playing at Lord’s and that is the attitude of all the players,” Sammy said.
“They all want to play at the home of cricket and will put everything aside and come and look to play for West Indies.” (CMC)

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