KINGSTON, Jamaica – With the carnage from the South Africa series still fresh, West Indies’ unpredictable batting will come under the microscope once again when the Caribbean side face Pakistan in the opening Test at Sabina Park Thursday.
Repeated meltdowns in the two-Test series against South Africa recently left West Indies with heavy defeats, and with those disappointments still looming ahead of the two-Test series, the Kraigg Brathwaite-led unit find themselves under pressure to perform.
However, Brathwaite told an online media conference today the Windies were looking to turn the page on those performances, and were mentally ready to face their demons.
“We had a couple weeks [to work on issues] and the guys have been putting in some work,” Brathwaite explained.
“Some guys have been playing one-day games. But we had ample time to reflect and we know as batsmen the jobs we have got to do better, and the guys are really looking forward to the job.”
He continued: “Obviously the guys – including myself – were very disappointed with how we would’ve batted against South Africa and we had some time to refresh, obviously getting some rest as well, but especially from the camp we had a few meetings and the guys know what they have to do.
“And it won’t be easy, Test cricket is never easy but mentally the guys are in a good space and positive, and we look forward to the challenge Pakistan will give us.”
Brathwaite, who replaced Jason Holder as captain ahead of the Sri Lanka last March, was not spared against South Africa, managing 28 runs from four innings.
In fact, not a single batsmen managed over 100 runs, with vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood topping the aggregates with 88 runs, and only Roston Chase and Kieran Powell getting fifties.
Brathwaite, the most experienced batsmen in the side, said despite the demands he was not feeling any pressure to deliver.
“As the opener, my job is always to build the foundation so for me I don’t see it as pressure,” he maintained.
“Obviously my job is to make things easier for the guys to come and that’s what I’ll be focussing on. The batsmen had a nice camp, we had a nice four-day game so the guys are ready and raring to go. But for me, it’s not added pressure. I just want to do my job opening wise.”
He added: “One of the key things for me is having a routine so whether I’m a captain or just playing, it’s key I stick to the routines. And for me it’s quite normal.
“Obviously I’ve been opening for almost my whole life so I’m pretty much accustomed to going through my different stuff.
“Test cricket is all a mental grind so the key is to have your mind in the right space and then obviously performance and that stuff will take care of itself.”
West Indies face a Pakistan side who have won their last two series, beating both Zimbabwe and South Africa 2-0 this year.
Further, the Caribbean side have not beaten Pakistan in a series in two decades but Brathwaite said West Indies would be purely focussed on the execution of their game plan and not on recent history
“It’s Test cricket and obviously this is a different series and obviously different conditions and stuff,” he argued.
“And Pakistan is always a good Test team. Obviously they have a lot of young faster bowlers as well and we know what we have to do.
“Obviously the batting let us down in the last series but as I said, we had a really good camp and all the guys are in the right space, so I won’t be worrying about opposition.
“Once we take care of our plans and being disciplined, especially as batsmen, we will be good for sure. It’s just to have that belief and for batsmen to come to the party, put scores on the board, spend time – that will put the team in a great position to win Test matches.”
Batting all-rounder Roston Chase will have fond personal memories of the last time he faced the Pakistanis four years ago. Shannon Gabriel’s brain fade that cost West Indies the series 2-1 aside, Chase will remember being the leading scorer in the series between the two teams four years ago when his average reached 48.53. It has since plummeted to 29 and he could use familiar foes to trend this stat in an upward direction.
The weather could prove to be a nuisance to the game, though, with rain forecast for all five days.
West Indies (possible): 1 Kraigg Brathwaite (capt), 2 Kieron Powell, 3 Nkrumah Bonner, 4 Shamarh Brooks/Shai Hope, 5 Jermaine Blackwood, 6 Roston Chase, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Joshua da Silva (wk), 9 Alzarri Joseph, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Jayden Seales
Pakistan: (probable): 1 Abid Ali, 2 Imran Butt, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Babar Azam (capt), 5 Fawad Alam, 6 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Hasan Ali, 9 Yasir Shah 10 Mohammad Abbas, 11 Shaheen Shah Afridi. (CMC/Cricinfo)