Devon Smith has said a desire to “prove England wrong” provided extra motivation for West Indies. He was among the players surprised to hear Colin Graves, the incoming ECB chairman, describe West Indies as a “mediocre” side ahead of the series.
And now, buoyed by their escape in Antigua, after Jason Holder hit an unbeaten hundred, Smith claimed the entire squad was looking to punish England for their arrogance.
“They said in the press they would win three love,” Smith said. “We’ve had the first Test and we’re looking forward to the next two to come. It motivates me – it motivates the whole team – to go out there and prove them wrong for whatever they said.
“The guys are pumped up and looking forward to it. To bat a whole day and save a Test is amazing. A lot of fans expected us to lose but we delivered and we earned the draw.”
While the perception of arrogance is unfair to England – nobody in the touring party claimed West Indies were “mediocre” and nobody in the touring party suggested a 3-0 victory – it is still a useful motivational tool. It allows West Indies to think of themselves as underdogs, freed of expectation and pressure.
“We have no pressure now,” Smith said. “England have the pressure because they are looking for the victory. Sometimes it’s good to be underdogs. At least you have nothing to lose and something to prove.”
Smith will become the first Grenadian to play a Test on home soil when this match starts on Tuesday. One of only four men from the island have represented West Indies in Test cricket – Junior Murray, Nelson Pascal, Rawl Lewis are the others – he can anticipate vociferous local support at the impressive National Stadium. Bearing in mind that even Lewis (Test batting average 8.90; Test bowling average 114) has a stand named after him, Smith can probably expect the same at some stage.
He expects the pitch to be “great” for batting, though he also anticipates that “there may be more than Antigua.” Devendra Bishoo’s legspin is sure to come into play following the omission of Sulieman Benn.
Smith enjoyed a pretty good first Test. While the manner of his second innings dismissal – caught at mid-on – was, in his words “unfortunate” he had by then compiled his highest Test score since November 2005. He put the improvement down to a more confident approach and some work against spin bowling.
“I used to put myself under unnecessary pressure,” he said. “Now I just want to go out and express myself. I’m approaching the game with a lot more confidence.
“I had an issue for a short while that I was out to the arm-ball. It was a simple mistake and I have worked on it. It was not a major thing.
“But this match – at home – will be a dream for me. My whole family will be here to support me. The people will be here to support not just me but the whole West Indies team. It will be a great occasion.”