GROS ISLET, St Lucia – West Indies will hope to avoid any embarrassing hiccups and impose their obvious superiority on minnows Afghanistan, when the two teams meet in the opening day/night One-Day International of the three-match series Friday.
The preceding Twenty20 series, which ended in a clean sweep for the hosts, highlighted the massive gulf between the two sides and the one-day side will be heavily favoured to extend that success in the three contests at the Darren Sammy National Stadium.
More significantly, the series – regardless of the weakness of the opposition – offers West Indies a golden opportunity to turn the page on a recent run of troubling results that have seen them win just once in their last 12 outings in bilateral series.
And captain Jason Holder was quick to reiterate the importance of the tour, urging his players to be at their best and to ensure a series win.
“I think we all know the importance of this series. We’ve just come off of the Tests, a tough loss against Pakistan in the last one-day series,” the all-rounder said Thursday.
“I felt we showed some promise there. We had a lot of good positives coming out of that series but we didn’t get over the line in terms of the end result.
“I think coming into this series is an opportunity to win a series so the guys have to be very disciplined, always set up our process boxes and once we tick them, more often than not we’ll come out on the winning end.”
West Indies are currently ranked ninth in the international one-day rankings, only above Afghanistan in 10th and Zimbabwe in 11th. It is a ranking that caused them to miss out on the ongoing Champions Trophy in England and forced them to turn their attention to the Asian side.
Regardless of the weakness of the opposition, however, Holder said he had much regard for their bowling attack, one which included the likes of exciting teenaged leg-spinner Rashid Khan.
He explained while he was keen on using the series to give each member of his 13-man squad a chance to play, winning was the chief priority and this would be the ultimate focus of the series.
“The first objective is to win the series and I think once we win the series then you can afford to give everybody the opportunity to play but we must play it (series) seriously,” Holder said.
“It is a very important series. We’ve got to beat Afghanistan. They’ve got a very good bowling attack in my opinion and if we are complacent, that could hamper us. I am very very confident about this tour.
“This is an opportunity for the guys to stamp their authority and get some runs underneath their belts.”
The venue has not been a happy hunting ground for West Indies in the past, providing just one win in 11 ODIs in the last nine years.
Holder, however, said he expected his side to make the most of the excellent conditions at the ground to undermine Afghanistan.
“The history here in St Lucia offers a bit for the faster bowlers up front but having said that, if you are a batman and you get past that first half an hour, it becomes an easier track,” Holder pointed out.
“I wouldn’t say easy paced but the pace is consistent and the bounce is consistent … and I think it has generally been good wicket here. We have some fast bowlers in our side who can extract some pace and bounce and we expect that from them.”
The Afghans will depend on Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shenwari and Asghar Stanikzai for the majority of their runs. The trio has been in fine touch this year in the 50-over format. Among the bowlers, Khan has been in terrific form, evidenced by the 26 scalps he has bagged at an astounding average of 12.30 in 2017. His brand of googlies and straighter ones have troubled the opposition batsmen in the recent past.
Khan was an instant success in his debut stint in the Indian Premier League this year for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Mohammad Nabi and Dawlat Zadran have also been among the wickets this season.
Windies have never previously played Afghanistan in an ODI. Friday’s contest bowls off at 2:30 pm.
Squads:West Indies – Jason Holder (captain), Devendra Bishoo, Jonathan Carter, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Kieran Powell, Rovman Powell. Afghanistan – Asghar Stanikzai, Noor Ali Zadran, Javid Ahmadi, Usman Ghani, Rahmat Shah Zarmati, Nasir Jamal, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari, Gulbuddin Naib, Rashid Khan Arman, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Shapoor Zadran, Amira Hamza Hotak, Dawlat Zadran, Afsar Zazai, Farid Malik.