BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Chris Gayle believes it is important for West Indies to win the third One-day International against England today at Kensington Oval.
Ongoing negotiations between the West Indies Players’ Association and the West Indies Cricket Board have not distracted the side, and the West Indies captain expects them to take the field with a single purpose in mind.
“We are all professionals, and we have made it clear that once we cross the boundary rope and step onto the field, we have to be ready to play serious cricket,” said Gayle on the eve of the match.
“We have had situations like this before, so it is nothing new to us. We are all big men, so we have to take responsibility for whatever we do, and when there is cricket, we have to be ready to play. This will not affect us.”
Gayle also observed that the dispute rather than divide the players has strengthen their resolve and this has helped them on the field.
“I am very happy with the way we have stuck together on these issues, and you can actually see it in our game too,” he said.
“It is good to see that our unity has brought strength. Once we have that unity, I think we can counter any opponent. We have no problems out there.”
The series is tied 1-1 after the first two matches in Guyana, where West Indies lost the opening match in bizarre circumstances last Friday, when they accepted bad light believing they were ahead of the target under the Duckworth-Lewis Method.
They however, recovered, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s 10th ODI hundred overshadowed Andrew Strauss’ third to set-up a 21-run victory in the second match last Sunday.
A victory would give either side the lead in the series again, and put them in pole position to win the series, and Gayle hopes West Indies are the team that will come out on top.
“It is a very important game,” he said. “It’s even Stevensagain, and I am sure we all want to win and go out in front.
“It looks like a nice [pitch], and it has been a nice place for the England team. Andrew Flintoff is back for England, and this is a boost for their team, so we are looking forward to it and want to play some good cricket and go up 2-1.”
Gayle indicated that West Indies are likely to field the same 11 for the match and means that uncapped opener Dale Richards and fast-medium bowler Ravi Rampaul will be on the sidelines. Richards comes back into the squad, after he withdrew ahead of the opening Test in Jamaica with a foot injury.
He replaces Devon Smith, who did not play in either of the first two ODIs, but Lendl Simmons has opened with Gayle in the first two matches. Simmons made 62 in the first ODI and a duck in the second, and offers West Indies another bowling option so this likely rules Richards out.
Rampaul has played 30 ODIs – the last of which was against South Africa last year in Johannesburg – and replaces the out-of-form Daren Powell.A fractured finger sidelined him for the first four matches of the WICB regional four-day competition this year, but he has taken 18 wickets at 24 runs apiece in six matches to signal his return to full fitness. England will welcome back Andrew Flintoff and hope the inspirational all-rounder can help them turn the tide decisively in the series and recover from their winter of discontent.
Flintoff was passed fit to play on Tuesday, following a hip injury that kept him sidelined for a month and saw him return to England for treatment.His availability adds fire and control to the England attack, but it has also provided a headache for England captain Andrew Strauss and the tour management about whom he should replace.“After only two games there are no obvious candidates to be dropped, but that is a minor problem when you put it into the context of having ‘Fred’ back in the side,” he said.
“There are a few options for us to consider and we’ll be considering them before [Friday].” It is important that England get their bowling right, since it has been a major concern for them on this trip emphasised by West Indies’ ability to make better use of the Power Plays. Flintoff will also add a little more depth to their batting, although he has not been at his best in recent matches. The last time the two sides met in an ODI at Kensington Oval was two years ago during the World Cup, and England won by one wicket in Brian Lara’s final international appearance for West Indies, and they will hope to crash the party again before a capacity crowd.
It is one of the eight matches West Indies have lost out of the last nine ODIs they have played at the ground which does not bode well for them.
WEST INDIES (from): Chris Gayle (captain), Lionel Baker, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Nikita Miller, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin,Ravi Rampaul, Dale Richards, Darren Sammy, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons
ENGLAND (from): Andrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Gareth Batty, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Steve Davies, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Amjad Khan, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Adil Rashid, Owais Shah
UMPIRES: Steve Bucknor, Steve Davis, TV Replays: Norman Malcolm, Reserve: Vincent Bullen
MATCH REFEREE: Javagal Srinath