LONDON, CMC – A vastly under-strength West Indies will contest the first of two Twenty20 Internationals that reportedly no one wanted when they face England on today at The Oval.
For various reasons, West Indies are shorn of a number of first-choice players like Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, the Bravo brothers, Darren and Dwayne, Adrian Barath, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, and Sulieman Benn.
But West Indies captain Darren Sammy preferred to see the two matches as a chance to give some valuable exposure to some talented players.
“We will look to give everyone an opportunity to play as we build toward the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka next year, but this weekend is also geared toward winning,” he said.
“We don’t have a lot of T20 matches at the international level before next year’s tournament, so we have to look to make the most of every opportunity we get to identify the right players for the job to get the combinations right and to create that winning environment.”
He added: “The team might be full of young players, but they can cope. We are in a no-fear environment. The guys have enjoyed the training since arriving in England and they look like they belong here.
“We are missing guys who would normally be in the T20 set-up, but we have a young side and these guys look very confident and eager to step out at the Oval. Just like England, we now have a young team and players eager to express themselves with bat and ball, so it’s going to be interesting.” West Indies have won two of the three Twenty20 matches they’ve played against England at The Oval, but with so many leading players absent, no warm-up matches for the visitors, and the lesser experienced players are likely to struggle in autumnal English conditions, Graeme Swann’s side have been installed favourites to win both matches. Sammy acknowledged that the English were enjoying a highly successful summer during which they claimed the World No.1 Test side status – but they too are missing a number of key players through injury and are also taking the time to blood a few new faces.
“There is great excitement,” he said. “It’s the start of a new series and that brings with it new expectations.
“It’s a big occasion for all of us and a special occasion for the new players, who will be playing for the first time, so everyone in the camp is tuned in and ready for the occasion.”
He said: “We are coming up against an England team which is playing very well at the moment, but we are up for it.
“We are looking for the guys who are coming in to make a contribution toward the team’s success. We want to start well on Friday and continue on Sunday. We are looking for two exciting T20 games.”
The two matches were organised at this time for the England & Wales Cricket Board to make good on a television broadcasting agreement with Sky Sports that originally included the Stanford Super Series.
The matches have been crudely termed the Stanford Memorial Series, as the one-time Texan billionaire sits in an American jail awaiting trial on charges of fraud.
Sammy said Stanford’s impact on the game in the Caribbean was immense and helped to unearth some of the talent that West Indies will put on the field over the weekend.
“With all due respect to what Stanford did in the Caribbean, I don’t think it could be replaced,” he said.
“The interest that was generated during the Stanford T20 was very good for us. Now the board has the Caribbean T20 which is a very good tournament, in which we’ve seen guys like Johnson Charles, Nkrumah Bonner, and Christopher Barnwell, who were all exposed because of Caribbean T20.”
He added: “I don’t know what is going on now with Mr. Stanford, but what transpired as a result of his tournaments, I think it exposed some good players for us.”
West Indies are likely to open with the uncapped pair of Johnson Charles and Miles Bascombe.
Marlon Samuels is expected to lead the middle-order batting and Danza Hyatt will be looking to take his explosive batting to the next level with the rest of the frontline batting likely to comprise a plethora of all-rounders like Sammy, Andre Russell, comeback-kid Dwayne Smith, Christopher Barnwell, the uncapped pair leg-spin all-rounder Nkrumah Bonner, as well as uncapped wicketkeeper/batsman Derwin Christian.
The bowling has some strength with Fidel Edwards is likely to spearhead the attack, with the uncapped pair of left-arm fast-medium bowler Krishmar Santokie and left-arm spinner Garey Mathurin waiting in the wings, and ICC Emerging Player-of-the-Year Devendra Bishoo to add some spice.
England, the reigning World Twenty20 champions, are being led for the first time by Swann, their champion off-spinner, but they will be without the services of regular T20 captain Stuart Broad and left-handed innovative hitter Eoin Morgan.
Craig Kieswetter, Jos Butler, Ravi Bopara, Ben Stokes, and Jonny Bairstow have all proven themselves on the domestic stage and will look to take apart the West Indies attack.
The home team’s bowling is well served with the likes of Swann, James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Steve Finn, and Jade Dernbach at the heart of the attack.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Christopher Barnwell, Miles Bascombe, Devendra Bishoo, Nkrumah Bonner, Johnson Charles, Derwin Christian, Fidel Edwards, Danza Hyatt, Garey Mathurin, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Krishmar Santokie, Dwayne Smith
England: Graeme Swann (captain), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ravi Bopara, Scott Borthwick, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Jos Buttler, Jade Dernbach, Steve Finn, Alex Hales, Craig Kieswetter, Samit Patel, Ben Stokes