West Indies take on Sri Lanka in the first match of the One-Day International Tri-series which also includes ICC Champions Trophy winners India, at Sabina Park tomorrow.
For the hosts they get an immediate opportunity to rebound after their disappointing exit from the Champions Trophy in almost farcical circumstances.
West Indies opener Chris Gayle, whose ODI form has been indifferent in recent times, said the West Indies would look to stamp their authority in the series by using home advantage to good measure.
“Its all good. We were bubbling in England but we were disappointed with how we got bounced out of the tournament and this is a new tournament now and everybody is starting back from scratch and Sunday we will be coming up against the Champions Trophy champion, so it will be interesting, We should use the home advantage to the best of our (abilities) and capitalise on that. They won’t be in their comfort zone so we have to put the pressure on them as much as possible and let them know that we are home and stamp our authority,” Gayle said.
The appointment of Dwayne Bravo as the captain of the ODI side raised a few eyebrows in the Caribbean, but Bravo brushed doubts aside saying it was part of rotation policy. He promised proactive captaincy with “strange” tactics before the start of the Champions Trophy, but the team missed out on a semi-final spot when Kieron Pollard lost his wicket off what proved to be the last ball of the innings. Bravo was at the non-striker’s end then and walked off dejectedly.
However, having spent some time in England as a leader, Bravo has a chance to impose his personality on the side under favourable conditions and to bury that disappointment against two powerful adversaries.
The West Indies will enter the match with a bit of a dilemma. They settled into a combination that worked for them in England after the suspension of Denesh Ramdin where they were able to play an extra bowler in the form of all-rounder Darren Sammy while Johnson Charles took up the wicketkeeping duties. Ramdin is the specialist keeper and in international cricket it is always advisable to stick to specialists. But Charles performed with such aplomb behind the stumps that the team’s management is likely to retain the same team balance as in England.
However, on the Sabina Park wicket which usually helps the faster bowlers, there will be the temptation to play the fast-bowling tearaway Tino Best against Asian opponents not always keen on extreme pace. Sammy, though, is likely to maintain his place in the team.
West Indies, for all their improvements, will still have to step up their play which has been largely inconsistent. They followed their T20 World Cup victory last year with a close ODI series defeat to Bangladesh in Bangladesh and were then humbled 5-0 by Australia in a five-match series Down Under.
They continue to perform in two stages where the bowling comes good and the batting flops, or they bat well and the bowling leaks runs. Sunil Narine has been their principal weapon, bowling economically and taking wickets but the rest of the bowling has tended to be inconsistent and frequently expensive.
Sri Lanka have been on a rebuilding curve and the tour to the Caribbean is an important one for them. It’s not often that they travel to the western edge of the cricketing world — this is only their sixth trip to the Caribbean, including the 2007 World Cup — and the last time they were here five years ago, they drew the Test series 1-1 but failed to win anything in the three-match ODI series. A team in transition, Sri Lanka have had mixed results this year under the new leadership of Angelo Mathews.
The big positive came down under in Australia where they drew the five-match series, but they suffered a setback at home soon after, losing their series against Bangladesh. They found their A-game during the Champions Trophy, making it to yet another semi-final of a big tournament, before bowing out to India.
That run in England was largely based on their senior players repeatedly leading the team to safety. What was keenly awaited, but never came in England, was an innings, a spell, or a moment of brilliance from the new generation of Sri Lankan cricketers. Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera, Shamida Eranga – the list is full of promise that is yet to shine. In this series, on the slow-low pitches of the Caribbean, against two tough opponents and away from the peering eyes of the media, they have a glorious opportunity to show signs of progress.
They will be without the injured opener Tillakaratne Dilshan – a major loss – but this offers Upul Tharanga another opportunity to show his worth in the side. He was a regular in the side after making his debut in 2005, but lean returns in 2011-12 and the rise in the reputation of Perera, saw the latter edge Tharanga out for the home series against Bangladesh. A sparkling debut by Perera meant Tharanga was left waiting for an opening in the side, which has now come due to Dilshan’s injury.
West Indian fans will once more be keen to get a glimpse of mystery bowler Ajantha Mendis who has had his injury woes of late as well as the other spin mystery in Sachithra Senanayake.
The match starts 10.30 a.m. local time.