Sammy: Windies a strong force
ICC Media Release.
Dhaka, Bangladesh - For the first time in eight years, West Indies goes into a global tournament as the defending champion as it seeks to retain the ICC World Twenty20 crown won in Sri Lanka some 18 months back.
A bulk of the influential performers from that squad are in the 15 here, so West Indies finds itself in a far better space than it was at the start of the last edition of this event.
“There is always pressure, plus we are the defending champions,” said Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, on Saturday (March 22), a day before his team’s first match against India.
“This time, our players are a lot more experienced. Last time, our key players had a brilliant tournament. And the key was even though someone did not perform in a match, we stuck together as a team. This time it’s even more important that we have our key guys perform consistently. As a team, we now have more belief that we could come out there and defend the trophy. We have to focus on each game, and tomorrow all our focus is on India. After we do that, we again sit together and look at the roadmap to the title and come up with a plan for the next match. But tomorrow is all about India and what we could do to overcome them.”
A majority of the West Indian players play in the Indian Premier League, so players from both sides are reasonably familiar with one another. “Cricket is a game of shifting confidence,” said Sammy, wearing his straight face.
“You can know your opponent from the last time you have played but he went back and worked on his game. To me, it’s about going out there and using the conditions right rather than looking at the other’s game. In this time and age, they have footage everywhere. You can see the last match played by any cricketer and come up with a formula you think might work. But we have a general idea of what their side is and what they are capable of. Tomorrow’s match will be keenly contested, a match we will want to come out victorious in. It will be good to start a big tournament on a winning note.”
Then, the straight face took a back seat as Sammy sent the audience bursting into laughter when he was asked what was going through Chris Gayle’s mind. “I am not Jesus Christ. I don’t know what’s going on in his mind,” he remarked, struggling not to laugh out loud, “but I know he is really pumped up to play here. Whenever he is playing for the West Indies, he is very pumped up.”
There is a wonderful balance about the West Indies side, with hard-hitting batsmen, capable medium pacers, a potent spin attack and plenty of all-round options. “We have top T20 players who have played around the world. We have Gayle, Narine, (Dwayne) Bravo – all of them have a lot of experience playing T20,” said Sammy.
“With the two openers (Gayle and Dwayne Smith) we have, they are guys who can give us great impetus in the first six overs. Then we have Marlon (Samuels), Bravo and myself to finish the innings. If you look at our bowling unit, we have (Sunil) Narine, who is to me the No. 1 bowler in this format. We also have (Samuel) Badree, Bravo, and a young guy called Krishmar Santokie who could have a great impact in this tournament. We are happy with the balance of our side, and yes, we are a very good team especially in this format.”
Sammy also took great pride in the fact that his side wasn’t overly dependent on any single individual as he was asked about the importance at No. 3 of Samuels, one of the better players of spin in this West Indian batting order. “The good thing about our team is that we don’t rely on any one player. We have at least four-five-six potential match-winners in our side,” announced Sammy.
“Yes, spin will play an important part in this tournament and the team which can handle spin better will come out victorious but, like I said, I am quite happy about the team we have here. In the short format, the bulk of the runs will come from the top four or five batsmen and we are very strong at the top of the order with Marlon, (Lendl) Simmons, me and Bravo in the middle order, so we are not looking at any one person but as a team.”
Suresh Raina had said a few minutes earlier that West Indies had players who were capable of hitting sixes but they were not adept at rotating the strike. “Raina has a right to say what he feels,” smiled Sammy benignly.
“If he thinks we are only six-hitters, they have to stop us from hitting sixes. India started off on a winning note and most likely they will have a lot of confidence going into the game. We know what we are capable of doing and we have been playing some good T20 cricket. The guys are confident that we would come good once we play to our full potential.”