Bravo confident of tackling Malinga threat
Dwayne Bravo, the Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel captain, believes his team will be able to counteract the threats of new arrivals Lasith Malinga and Tillakaratne Dilshan come Thursday's Caribbean Premier League semi-final at home against table-toppers Guyana Amazon Warriors.
"They have brought in some good players and Malinga is dangerous," Bravo said. "He showed this in the T20 World Cup. Dilshan is also a very big player but T&T have picked up momentum and we're looking to carry this into the semis. I know we can deal with these new threats."
T&T began the tournament with three successive losses before winning their next three matches to take the fourth spot and make the semi-finals. Bravo commended his players for their attitudes following the calamitous start and credited coach Gordon Greenidge and assistant coach David Williams for their leadership.
"We've got our batters to make runs but it's the coaches who really helped us keep our heads up," Bravo said. "Batsmen like Adrian (Barath), Ross (Taylor) and (Kevin) O'Brien are leading the way and making it easier for us out there. We've got more disciplined and are playing good, all-round cricket.
"But Guyana cannot be discounted. Lendl (Simmons) and Sunil (Narine) add a lot of weight to the opposition but Brian Lara keeps giving us pep talks and makes us believe. That is another secret weapon we have."
Greenidge added, "Guyana are strong but we have seen in the prelims, that we can handle them. We have (Mahela) Jayawardene also and he's a big plus factor with his experience, so watch out for him."
Bravo said that though he did not have all the T&T players who have made the national side such a strong force in regional Twenty20 competition, his CPL side had shown they could not be ignored. "The semi-final is harder to play than the final. We're not the Trinidad team that dominated the T20s regionally before. But what we've shown is that the Red Steel cannot be underestimated."
Although Guyana have flown in Malinga and Dilshan for the knockout stage, Ramnaresh Sarwan, the side's captain, said it was difficult to replace players such as Martin Guptill, who is out of the tournament with a hand injury, and Mohammad Hafeez, who left to lead Pakistan in Zimbabwe. Guptill made 198 runs at a strike-rate of 119.27 in the tournament while Hafeez was one of the premier allrounders, with 159 runs at 110.41 and five wickets at an economy-rate of 6.66. Sarwan exercised caution over the integration of his new charges and said they needed time to acclimatize.
"We topped the group stage and yes, it's hard to replace players like Hafeez, who added so much of his experience as an international captain, and also Guptill, who has been tremendous with the bat," Sarwan said. "But players like Simmons and Narine know our opponents well. They know the pitch, and how to win regional matches. They can help ease the load off the new guys (Malinga and Dilshan), who literally are just joining us."
Sarwan pointed that his team was a stronger unit than the Guyana regional side that won the Caribbean T20 tournament in Port-of-Spain three years ago. "This isn't the Guyana team who won the Caribbean T20 title right here in 2010 but actually, we're stronger with the external players we possess," Sarwan said. "Throw in players like Malinga and Dilshan, who have big repertoires and are some of the best in the business right now, and we're well equipped to take the trophy to Guyana.
"We've been very excellent in the field and with the ball. We have the tournament's leading wicket-taker in Krishmar Santokie, so I know with our batsmen ready, we feel the win coming."
Left-arm seamer Santokie, the last of whose two T20s was in March 2012, has pitched himself into West Indies contention again with 14 wickets from seven matches at an economy-rate of 6.18. Sarwan said with Santokie alongside Narine, Guyana's attack looked secure.
Renaldo Matadeen is a sportswriter and social media manager for ESPN Caribbean. He tweets here