HARARE, Zimbabwe – All-rounder Carlos Brathwaite believes West Indies are a marked team at the ICC World Cup Qualifiers which bowl off this weekend.
The Caribbean side are the highest ranked side in the 10-team competition, which determines the final two spots at the World Cup next year in England.
Brathwaite conceded the Windies were the strongest side but said as a result, there were teams which would be anxious to prove their worth against the two-time former World Cup champs.
“We probably have a target on our backs, and teams will really be game when it comes to playing against us,” said Brathwaite, who was recalled for this series after being dropped a year ago.
“We need to firstly not underestimate any team – I don’t think we will – and then secondly, we need to do as well as we can, perform day in and day out. At the end of the two weeks or so, let’s be raising the cup as champions of the World Cup Qualifier.”
He continued: “I will concede that we’re probably the better team on paper, the team with most history. But cricket is played on the day. Each and every day we step on the park, we need to act as though we are the best team on paper, act like the best team in the competition. And then have the results to show for it.”
West Indies’ start to the tournament was less than flattering, crashing to a stunning 29-run defeat under Duckworth/Lewis to Afghanistan in their opening warm-up match on Tuesday.
They will take on ICC World Cricket League Division 2 champion, United Arab Emirates, in their final warm-up tomorrow.
West Indies were forced into the qualifiers after winning just three of 23 One-Day Internationals last year, to find themselves ninth in the ICC rankings at the qualification cut-off date of September 30 last year.
Only hosts England, along with the remaining top seven ranked sides, gained automatic qualification.
Brathwaite said while they would have preferred to have avoided the qualifiers, it was now important the Caribbean side approached them professionally.
“With all due respect to the competition, we didn’t want to be here. We wanted the direct passage to the World Cup,” said the 29-year-old.
“Be that as it may, we are here, and we have to play these games, play them well, and be at our best throughout the competition, and be there and lift the trophy at the end of the competition, and ease a few fears back home of possibly missing out on the World Cup. That will be a job well done in my eyes.”
West Indies boast a strong side which includes the likes of veteran batsmen Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, along with the exciting youthful duo of Evin Lewis and Shai Hope.
Brathwaite, better known for his exploits in the Twenty20 format, said he was focused on ensuring his performances helped the Windies to qualify.
“I don’t know how much pressure is on me externally but I always put pressure on myself to do as well as I can,” Brathwaite noted.
“At the end of this World Cup Qualifier, I want to be able to look in the mirror and say that I’ve been put everything in. The team qualifying is the ultimate goal.”