Confident WI look to rise above setbacks in first Test against Sri Lanka
GALLE, Sri Lanka (CMC):
West Indies will be hoping to put a less-than-ideal build-up behind them when they clash with Sri Lanka in the opening Test here starting on Wednesday (11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jamaica time).
Prior to the start of the tour, they lost head coach Phil Simmons to suspension for comments that were critical of the team selection. Then, monsoon rains, typical in the south Asian nation at this time of year, served to disrupt the Caribbean side's preparation since they arrived nearly two weeks ago.
Added to this, their batsmen failed to spend adequate time in the middle in the drawn three-day game, which ended Sunday in Colombo and their bowlers were kept in the field for the better part of the last two days as the Sri Lanka Cricket Board President's XI amassed over 400 runs.
While acknowledging that the pre-Test preparation had not gone smoothly, new captain Jason Holder said there was a confidence and focus in the young squad, which he expected to pay dividends over the next few days at the International Cricket Stadium.
"We've controlled what we can control. Obviously, we had a bit of rain which offset our practice sessions a fair bit, but we're professional," the 23-year-old told a news conference.
"I think, going into this series, we all have our minds tuned to the game. We've had a good blowout in the three-day game that we had and it is now important for our guys to make a mark for themselves, and there's no better opportunity than to start in this series."
Opting to bat first, West Indies were dismissed for 204 with only opener Kraigg Brathwaite of the frontline batsmen getting among the runs with 46. Left-hander Darren Bravo, one of the mainstays of the batting line-up, managed only 21 while the experienced Marlon Samuels failed to score and Jermaine Blackwood got three.
"I'm not too disheartened. It was just a practice game where we felt we needed to spend some time," he explained.
"Obviously, certain batsmen didn't spend as much time as we would want, but in speaking to them and seeing how they've been moving in the last few days, they look very, very confident ... I have full confidence in our batsmen that they will be able to produce in this Test match."
The bowlers toiled without much success as well, with Holder one of three seamers to pick up two wickets, along with Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel. New-ball bowler Jerome Taylor sat out the encounter.
West Indies have brought two frontline spinners on tour in the uncapped left-armer Jomel Warrican and leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, but their attack is expected to be heavily pace-oriented.
"We have a bit of pace in our attack, but I think skill comes into play. Obviously, in these conditions they're pretty batting-friendly and pace may not rattle many international batsmen at this stage, so I think you have to be skilful," he pointed out.
"Jerome has exhibited that in the last few series and over the past few years he's been playing for West Indies. Myself and Shannon have been slowly but surely growing into Test cricket. Hopefully, whatever team we come up with for the first Test match here in Galle, whoever gets selected goes forward and does their best for the team."
For Holder, the Test will be a special one. Appointed one-day captain earlier this year, he was last month asked to take over from Denesh Ramdin in the longer format. He is the youngest ever Test captain and in charge of a struggling unit.
"It is a special day for me ... taking the field for the first time as captain, but, for me, it is bigger than me at this point in time."
Squad: Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite (vice-captain), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Rajendra Chandrika, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Denesh Ramdin, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Jomel Warrican.