LAUDERHILL, Florida – Following their most recent forgettable Test series, West Indies return to the format they seem most equipped for when they again take on India, this time in the first of two Twenty20 Internationals in Florida on Saturday.
It will be a special moment for all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite who will lead West Indies for the first time in international cricket. Brathwaite, who has previously been at the helm of the West Indies A team, has taken over from Twenty20 World Cup-winning captain Darren Sammy.
Sammy was discarded by selectors after it was deemed his performances did not merit him a place in the side.
India will be facing a much stronger side under Brathwaite than they encountered in the four-Test series which they won 2-0. Several of the players who won the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in India are back in West Indies maroon and coach Phil Simmons has already stated that having them around will make things much easier for him.
Among those at Brathwaite and Simmons’ disposal will be Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard, among other specialist T20 players.
“It’s good to have all the senior guys back and they make things easy for me because it’s a case of them doing all the work and they know this format inside out,” Simmons said in Lauderhill ahead of Saturday’s game.
“So it gives me a chance to just enjoy them freeing themselves out there.”
Simmons also said being the T20 champions helped the side’s confidence, comparing them with the 1980s’ Test side, which dominated the longer format for years.
“In this context, I think it’s a case where we are world champions and it’s something we have made our own, similar to back in the ’80s when we made Test cricket our own. We always had the team to beat in T20 cricket so from that point of view we’ve got a lot better and all the guys are loving playing it. But it’s a stepping-stone to one-day cricket too.”
Brathwaite has played only eight T20Is so far and played only the first of the four Tests against India, scoring 0 and an unbeaten 51. While he had recently said the T20 players were “mature enough” to handle a change in leadership, Simmons said the objective of the new captain and the entire side would be to build on the World T20 win in India.
“I think his [Brathwaite’s] main mindset is that we have to continue where Sammy left us and the good work that Sammy did in this position,” Simmons said. “I think that’s the mindset of all players that we have to continue the work we did in the [T20] World Cup and before that.”
Even though their T20 squad is vastly different from the Test side, Simmons said there would be an “easy” transition in the dressing room because the T20 side has broadly remained the same since the World T20, which they won without Narine and Pollard.
“Yeah, it could be a bit different but I think there’s only three players here who played in that [Test] series,” Simmons explained. “So it is not that much of a transition because the three players know how to play this and one of them was the best player in the World Cup, you know, batting wise. I think we are easy with that transition.”
Simmons also emphasised on the kind of impact players like Russell and Narine could make in the shortest format. Russell recently struck a 44-ball 100 packed with 11 sixes and played a crucial role, along with Gayle, in taking Jamaica Tallawahs to their second CPL title. Narine took14 wickets in the CPL with an economy rate of 5.55, and also finished as the second-highest wicket-taker in the tri-series against South Africa and Australia in June.
“I don’t think there’s much to be said about Andre,” Simmons said. “From what he’s on the pitch, he just gives everything over there and he’s always going to be our main player for us. Once he starts, with either bat or ball, we are in a position of winning.
“I haven’t seen the surface properly yet but Narine played here for Trinidad & Tobago in the CPL and he has done well and adapted well. So I’d like the same from him.”
Simmons stated that beating India in the T20s, just like they had done in the World T20 semi-final in Mumbai, was going to be a bigger motivation than their T20 ranking, which is third currently behind New Zealand and India.
“It [ranking] is motivation but I think, as in Mumbai, just to beat India because that’s always going to be the team to beat in T20 cricket because they’ve commanded the format for a long period. So winning against India is always going to be high on the agenda. Where we get after that, we are happy at that.
“The only thing that we are doing is that we will prepare as best as we can because India is going to be coming looking for revenge for the semi-final loss and we have to make sure that we are ready for whatever they bring to us.”