West Indies take the field tomorrow against Pakistan in their first match of the 2013 Champions Trophy at the Oval with great expectations.
The venue of tomorrow’s game will bring back pleasing memories for the likes of captain Dwayne Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Darren Sammy and Chris Gayle as it was there that they defeated England nine years ago to win the 2004 version of the tournament.
Today Bravo made it clear he believed he had an excellent squad and was eagerly looking forward to getting onto the field.
“We are really looking forward to it. I just can’t wait to get the first game out of the way. It’s my first time as captain in a major tournament as this, and I have a very good team and good players and I’m looking forward to leading the guys out on the park,” the 29-year-old all- rounder said.
Bravo was speaking as the West Indies held a full training session at the Oval.
“We are really excited about the tournament on the whole. Our aim is to get off to a good start. That is the most important thing in a short tournament like this, to try to win the first game. It’s a very good team we’re coming up against and we have to play our best cricket in order to be successful.”
Bravo added: “We’re going to try to make sure that we have the best batting line-up to try to counter their bowling attack. We have the best batsmen in the world, so they’ll be aware of that also. So, yeah, it should be a very good game. If both teams actually turn-up on this day, it will be a cracker of a game and hopefully it will be good for the fans.”
Bravo has been a crucial member of the West Indies team with both bat and ball since his debut back in 2004, the same year as their Champions Trophy victory. He was also a vital member of the team which won the ICC World T20 Championship in Sri Lanka.
Asked about his style of leadership, Bravo noted that he still planned to be a live wire in the field.
“I want to be seen as a well respected captain, one who leads from the front. Also in terms of being on the field, I am an attacking captain by nature – I like to attack, I like to look for wickets. I read the game a lot and I’m very proactive. So you will see some strange placing in my system, strange moves, but sometimes if it does work I look like a genius, but if it doesn’t, then you guys are going to have a go at me.
“I think I’m the type of person that trusts my instincts and believes in the decisions that I make and I will stand by them. I have the right team, the right players to do the job that I ask for, so hopefully things can work out our way,” Bravo added.
Tomorrow West Indies will look to opener Chris Gayle, along with in-form opening partner Johnson Charles to give
them a good start. Gayle is fresh from an excellent Indian Premier League campaign and will be keen to turn around his recent dodgy One-day International form. Charles’ last two ODI’s have produced centuries and he appears to have adapted to English conditions quickly.
However one of the pivotal players in the line-up could be Ramnaresh Sarwan. Of the players in the side, he has played the most in English conditions and this experience could be vital in the middle order.
Marlon Samuels has been bothered by injury over the past few months and it is hoped he quickly returns to the groove that has made him the most productive batsman in the team over the past 18 months.
Bravo’s bowling choices seem rather clear with Ravi Rampaul, Sammy, Sunil Narine, Kemar Roach likely to be his strike force. However rookie pacer Jason Holder could come into the equation.
Bravo has very high hopes for Holder. “We’re trying to
mould him to be the next Curtly Ambrose for us. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a bowler of his size.” He added that in a side where most of the bowlers were short Holder could be an important player.
Pakistan, like West Indies, are equally unpredictable but are seen by some as favourites to go very far in the tournament.
They have left out Shahid Afridi from their squad but in Mohammed Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Junaid Khan and Nasir Jamshed, they possess potential match-winners.
Left-hand fast bowler Wahab Riaz could be a handful in English conditions. He bowls with pace, can swing the ball and can be effective in the shorter format with his ability to bowl the yorker on target. He is also more than handy with the bat.
Both teams have a lot to play for as in this format one defeat could become a hole too deep from which to climb.
The game starts at 5.30 a.m. (WG/Cricinfo)