Windies to flaunt their world-champion status
NORTH SOUND, Antigua (CMC):
Confident West Indies will put their Twenty20 skills on show in the Caribbean for the first time since winning last year's World Championship when they face lowly Zimbabwe in the opening T20 International here today.
The hosts are coming off a clean sweep in the three-match one-day series and will be fancying their chances of extended that success in the contest at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium set for 2 p.m.
While West Indies have struggled in Tests and one-dayers, they have excelled in the game's shortest form, and will be anxious to showcase their ability before their home crowd.
"We are world champions and every time we go out to play we have to play like world champions. We have to let other teams know we mean business. This is a format we have done well in and we will look to always dominate," Sammy told reporters here yesterday.
"We come here to play our brand of cricket - the brand which won us the World Cup for the people of the Caribbean. This is the first T20 International in the Caribbean since we won the World Cup and this is a great opportunity for the fans to come out and watch their world champions play. We anticipate a good turnout and we will look to win for our loyal supporters."
Since being crowned world champions last October in Sri Lanka, the Windies have triumphed in Bangladesh and Australia and will view the double-header as an excellent chance to extend their healthy record.
West Indies will be without one of their leading players in big-hitting opener Chris Gayle, who has asked to be rested, but will welcome back Sammy who missed the one-day series after also taking a short break.
Selectors have also called up fast bowler Shannon Gabriel and all-rounder Chris Barnwell for the double-header, and Sammy backs them to perform once given the opportunity.
"They have been rewarded for a very good Caribbean T20 tournament. They both played really well for their teams and took them to the finals," Sammy explained.
"They have both played at the international level before so this won't be altogether new for them. We will try to give everybody an opportunity. I expect to see them both play, if not in both games, at least in one game."
Spring a surprise
Zimbabwe, who appeared out of their depth in the ODI series will, however, be looking to spring a surprise.
They boast enterprising players such as captain Brendan Taylor, the classy Vusi Sibanda and Chamu Chibhabha, but have been unable to play consistent team cricket.
Sammy said despite this there would be no letting up by his side.
"I know we have not taken Zimbabwe lightly. We will come out and play good, competitive cricket. Looking back at the one-dayers, three disciplines fired," he said.
"We have a good combination and we will look to improve our performances."
WEST INDIES: Darren Sammy (captain), Samuel Badree, Christopher Barnwell, Tino Best, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Shannon Gabriel, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons.
ZIMBABWE: Brendan Taylor, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Tino Mawoyo, Keegan Meth, Chris Mpofu, Natsai M'shangwe, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Vusi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Malcolm Waller.