BRISTOL, England – West Indies captain Jason Holder has urged his side to play “fearless” cricket during the ICC World Cup starting Thursday, after watching them pile up a mammoth total against New Zealand in their final official warm-up today.
The Caribbean side marched to an imposing 421 thanks to Shai Hope’s 101 and half-centuries from Andre Russell (54) and Evin Lewis (50), innings which laid the foundation for a comfortable 91-run victory at Bristol County Ground.
“I’ve got little to no expectation for the group, that’s the method that we want to approach it – no expectation and just to play fearless and enjoyable cricket,” he said looking ahead to his side’s opening game of the World Cup against Pakistan at Nottingham on Friday.
“That’s the mindset I want to go in with and that’s the mindset I want the team to go in with – no expectation. [I just want] everyone to go out and just play fearless cricket, express yourself and just play the brand of cricket we play in terms of enjoying it.
“Everyday I tell the guys just play with a smile on your faces and enjoy what you’re doing. That’s what I want the guys to do.”
Holder, who also led the Windies at the last World Cup staged in Australia and New Zealand four years ago, said in the past enjoyment had not always been a feature of the team’s performances.
“I think one of the things that has hampered us sometimes in the past is that we’ve not really enjoyed it to the extent that I think we should be. It’s our living, our job,” he pointed out.
“We have put so many smiles on people’s faces back home in the Caribbean and for me, I just want to continue to do that. I think we’re at our best when we play with freedom and a smile.”
Today, West Indies displayed the form which has made them one of the quietly feared teams at the May 30 to July 14 showpiece. Holder slammed 47 from 32 balls in an important 82-run, seventh wicket stand with Russell while veteran Chris Gayle belted a whirlwind 36 from 22 deliveries in a 59-run, opening stand with Lewis.
Shimron Hetmyer (27), Darren Bravo (25) and Carlos Brathwaite (24) all chipped in with cameos to put West Indies past their previous best of 389.
“That performance should give the entire group a lot of confidence, I thought we batted really well and we kept the momentum going through the innings,” Holder said.
“Credit to the way Shai played, I thought Chris was outstanding at the very beginning, getting us off to a good start, and then Andre played a really good knock as well.
“We had the foundation up front. I think we hit every target that we set to hit and the beautiful thing is that we had set batters in most of the time and wickets in hand to launch at the very end.”
New Zealand failed to come to grips with the demands of the run chase and were all out for 330 in the 48th over. They were slumping at 33 for three in the 10th over after the Windies seamers made crucial strikes, and needed Tom Blundell’s fiery 106 and captain Kane Williamson’s 85 to recover.
“I thought the bowlers were outstanding as well. To defend on such a good wicket and a small field it can be difficult and we went both sides of the park last time against South Africa,” Holder noted. (CMC)