BASSETERRE, St Kitts, CMC – West Indies will be seeking to impose their superiority on minnows Afghanistan and rekindle their winning touch, when they meet the Asian side in the first of three Twenty20 Internationals here Friday night.
The reigning champions in the format have looked anything but over the last 10 months with six defeats in their last seven matches but the Afghanistan assignment presents the opportunity for the Caribbean side to turn their fortunes around.
West Indies boast a strong squad for the series with some of the world’s leading T20 specialists in batsmen Kieron Pollard, Lendl Simmons and Marlon Samuels, along with spinners Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree all involved.
Captain Carlos Brathwaite said here Thursday even though they were not taking the Afghans for granted, they were confident of imposing themselves on the series.
“We need to get back on the winning track. We pride ourselves in our T20 cricket and as usual we want to go out there and give the fans a spectacle, playing that Caribbean way, playing that exciting way to get fans off their seat,” the all-rounder said.
“We are not underestimating Afghanistan, they were actually the only team to beat us in the recent World Cup triumph so we’re not underestimating them.
“We are focussing on ourselves, we want to get back to the winning ways we are capable of and individually a lot of guys have stuff to prove in West Indies colours and I’m sure everyone is ready and raring to go.”
Since their triumph at the T20 World Cup in India last year April, the Windies have declined steadily. In fact, they were swept 3-0 by Pakistan last September in the United Arab Emirates and were beaten again by Pakistan, 3-1 in a four-match series in the Caribbean two months ago.
The problem in both series lay squarely at the feet of the Windies batting. In the UAE, they never mustered above 115 batting first and 144 chasing while in the Caribbean, they stumbled to totals of 111 and 124 batting first.
They successfully chased 137 in the third T20I but failed to overhaul 132 in the second game, and Brathwaite said they were aware of where they had gone wrong against the Pakistanis.
“We definitely spoke about our batting – batting in partnerships. I don’t think we did that well enough in the Pakistan series,” the 28-year-old pointed out.
“The one game we did put up a good batting performance we came up trumps so that’s something we’ve definitely spoken about.
“With regards to the bowling, I think we ticked all our boxes in the Pakistan series. However, we think we can improve on our fielding and we pride ourselves as an energetic fielding team, making stops and turning half-chances into chances and breaking crucial partnerships.
“That’s something we want to improve on going into this series and I know once we play our best cricket, fans will be happy and eventually, if we play our best cricket we should also win and the aim of the series is to come out on top.”
Several members of the squad are coming off stints in the Indian Premier League, including Pollard and Simmons who were members of eventual champions Mumbai Indians.
Both players were among the runs with Pollard gathering nearly 400 and Simmons getting two half-centuries.
Brathwaite, who made limited appearances for Delhi Daredevils, said he was hopeful the Trinidadian duo could bring their winning touch to the Windies side.
“We also have two guys who just experienced winning a competition … in Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard so we’re banking on their recent triumphs as well to bring some sort of extra motivating factor to the team,” he said.
“They always say winning is a habit and they’ve gotten accustomed to winning as they just won the IPL and we want to get back on the winning path as well. We all have things to play for and we all have motivating factors but hopefully those two can use their recent triumphs as an extra motivating factor to spur on the team to what we want to be a successful series win.”
Afghanistan, coached by Phil Simmons who was axed as West Indies head coach last September, have been impressive in their recent outings going unbeaten in their last 11 T20 Internationals.
The match is set for Warner Park at 7:30 pm.
WEST INDIES – Carlos Brathwaite (captain), Samuel Badree, Ronsford Beaton, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton, Kesrick Williams.
AFGHANISTAN – Asghar Stanikzai (captain), Noor Ali Zadran, Javid Ahmadi, Usman Ghani, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari, Najeeb Zadran, Gulbaddin Naib, Rashid Khan Arman, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Shapoor Zadran, Amira Hamza Hotak, Farid Malik, Dawlat Zadran, Karim Janat.