FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, CMC – Newly-appointed captain Carlos Brathwaite leads a powerful West Indies team against India in two T20 Internationals in South Florida beginning today.
“I am very excited. It is a very big honour to captain the West Indies,” said Brathwaite during a news conference yesterday.
“I am just excited to get on the park, start and lead a great bunch of guys into what we hope would be a series win.”
The ground-breaking encounters between the two top rated T20 rivals have been planned as an annual affair in an attempt to take cricket to America.
The matches signal the end of the Darren Sammy era following his controversial sacking from the West Indies team after leading the side to two World Cup titles.
“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,” said West Indies head coach Phil Simmons.
“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.”
Sammy has been replaced by the big hitting Trinidad and Tobago all-rounder Kieron Pollard who is looking to return to form after a less than outstanding Indian Premier League (IPL) and Caribbean Premier league (CPL).
Brathwaite’s outfit includes the likes of flamboyant opener Chris Gayle, all-rounder Andre Russell and spinner Sunil Narine.
Russell scored a 44-ball 100 with 11 sixes to lead Jamaica Tallawahs to their second CPL title while Narine took 14 wickets in the CPL 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. Once he is on the pitch, he just gives everything and he’s always going to be a main player for us. Once he starts, with either bat or ball, we are in a position of winning,” said Simmons.
“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.”
The Windies squad also features Johnson Charles, the second-highest run-scorer in the CPL, Andre Fletcher, Lendl Simmons and legspinner Samuel Badree, the No. 1 ranked bowler in T20Is.
“West Indies is an extraordinary team in the limited-overs format,” said Indian T20 captain MS Dhoni.
“Sometimes having one all-rounder can give you balance. They have two or three. Power-hitters become crucial in the smaller formats, and they have so many of them. They also play an entertaining brand of cricket, so it will be a challenge for us.” Their most recent meeting was in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup when West Indies chased down 193 to win in the final over.
“Let’s just find a way to win both these games and make the people of the Caribbean proud. We just won the world cup in India and we played India and beat India en-route to that,” said Brathwaite, who has played only eight T20Is so far and played only the first of the four Tests against India, scoring 0 and an unbeaten 51.
“So it is not anything foreign and the most important thing is what happens when you cross the line. The support is there regardless .We want to fly the flag high and do our best and give a 110 percent.” The Caribbean side, currently in third position, can move to second spot in the International Cricket Council’s official Twenty20 rankings, once they can make a clean sweep of their two-match series against India.
“West Indies have always been a tough side, they are the T20 world champions. They are quality cricketers and have shown consistently how good they are,” said India coach Anil Kumble.
“We had a tough match in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup as well. In terms of the quality that we are going to encounter, we are aware of that.”
The matches are being played today and tomorrow at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium which recently hosted matches in the fourth edition of the CPL.
“This is an awesome stadium, awesome!” declared Simmons.
“Looking at the CPL, the wicket seemed to be very good too. So if the wicket is as good as it was in CPL in a stadium like this, we are in for a treat over the weekend.”