PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – West Indies begin their quest to keep their strong home record against Sri Lanka intact when they face the unpredictable Asian side in the opening Test of the three-match series at the Queen’s Park Oval tomorrow.
In three previous tours of the Caribbean, Sri Lanka are yet to win a series, losing two and drawing one. Overall, they have won just one Test, lost three and drawn two, reflecting their dismal record on regional soil.
However, the last time the two sides met in Sri Lanka, the hosts easily swept the two-Test series and with West Indies decimated by New Zealand in their last Test series seven months ago, the visitors will believe now is a good a time as any to break their Caribbean jinx.
However, captain Jason Holder said his side would be looking to turn the page on the recent poor results and enter the series with a positive approach.
“We can’t go into the series thinking negatively,” Holder told reporters ahead of the contest at Queen’s Park Oval.
“We had a reasonable year last year. We probably didn’t end the year the way we would like but we won a few Test matches and we won a Test series as well so for us it’s about continuing in that same vein, getting some momentum early in the year here and carrying it to the back end of the year.”
West Indies’ Test form has been dismal in recent years though they have been some bright sparks, albeit sporadic.
They have won just four of 17 Tests inside the last two years, with a single series win – a 1-0 verdict over minnows Zimbabwe in Bulawayo last November.
Faced with a strong Sri Lanka side over the next few weeks, Holder said it was crucial the Windies started the series strongly instead of having to play from behind.
“Obviously it is something we really need to address. It is something that has crept into West Indies cricket over the last few years, we tend to play catch-up cricket,” the all-rounder pointed out.
“So it’s a matter for us to start the series well, do the basics and try not to get results-oriented up front. I try to deal with the process and what we need to do in order to get a win. To do that, we need to perform in all three departments.”
As has been the policy over the last two years, selectors have stuck with the core of the squad, with Kraigg Brathwaite, Shai Hope and Roston Chase set to lead the side’s batting, and Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach spearheading the bowling attack.
Jahmar Hamilton is the lone uncapped player in the 13-man squad with veteran opener Devon Smith recalled following a three-year break.
And with memorable Test wins over the last year, Holder believes the squad is beginning to show more consistency.
“I think we’re moving in that direction. If you look back at the year, we have played a lot of top teams and we’ve won Test matches against every top side that we’ve played,” he explained.
“It’s just a case for us to string together more collective efforts, more often than not. I stress to the guys to do the small things over a longer period of time. We’ve done good things over a short period of time but it is being a lot more consistent for the duration of the game.
“We tend to falter and lose games in probably a session, at a particular period in the game. Those are some of the things we just need to negate. I think if we do that we will be in a lot better stead going forward into the year.”
On the other hand, Sri Lanka will play a Test in the Caribbean after a decade and will look to overturn their luck from 2017. They began last year with a whitewash at the hands of South Africa, and endured series losses to India both home and away. They also failed to defeat Bangladesh in a series in their own backyard. However, for inspiration, they can reflect on their spirited performance in the UAE against Pakistan where they swept the two-match Test series.
They welcome a fit Angelo Mathews back in the wings, and with almost all their batsmen having got among the runs in the sole practice match against the President’s XI, Sri Lanka cannot be more pumped up going into the series. Both spinners Akila Dananjaya and Dilruwan Perera got three wickets apiece, which should serve as a soothing balm, given Rangana Herath is expected to play only two of the three Tests, much like Suranga Lakmal, as a part of Sri Lanka’s workload management.
SQUADS: WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Devendra Bishoo, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Miguel Cummins, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieran Powell, Kieran Roach, Jahmar Hamilton, Devon Smith. SRI LANKA – Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Mahela Udawatte, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Janith Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lahiru Gamage, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando. (CMC)