Bravo to build on Sammy era
When Dwayne Bravo was announced as West Indies' ODI captain, replacing Darren Sammy, a few weeks ahead of the Champions Trophy there were familiar rumblings about island politics. Sammy, who remains the captain in Test and T20 cricket and is part of the Champions Trophy squad, has proved a popular and unifying leader and guided West Indies to a memorable victory at last year's World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
But while West Indies have won their last six Test matches, both Sammy's own form and that of his team had been less impressive in ODI cricket. Bravo, speaking at his introductory press conference in Cardiff, suggested his appointment would give Sammy a well-earned rest from his previously all-encompassing responsibilities. Evolution, not revolution, was the message.
"I think they just want to try a rotation policy," he said of the WICB's decision to introduce a split-captaincy. "Obviously Darren had been doing the job in all forms of the game for the last two-and-a-half years, and that itself can be a tasking job. This just gives him a break from the team. I'm happy he's still in the squad so I can actually continue what he left, take over from what Darren was actually doing, and he's here and we've get the best way, the best combination, what we think should be the best for the West Indies teams so that we can win games."
Bravo is a colourful presence on a cricket field, fond of neon sunglasses and exuberant celebrations, but although he admitted captaincy was "a new road for me" he said he would not be changing his approach to the game. West Indies swept to the World Twenty20 title in carnival style in Sri Lanka last September and their "Gangnam Style" victory dance became as familiar as explosive contributions from the likes of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels.
"We're going to continue to entertain and we're going to continue to play the game how we know how to play, with flair and glamour, and hopefully we can give the English fans something to support," Bravo said.
The side that Sammy built has become used to greater levels of expectation than that experienced by most of his recent predecessors and, although West Indies' coach, Ottis Gibson, has tipped England as favourites, Bravo was not about to talk down his team's chances, despite being the lowest-ranked ODI side in their group, which also features India, South Africa and Pakistan.
"Last year in Sri Lanka we were cast as favourites and we ended up winning, so it's good to be favourites again," he said. "Hopefully we will win this time. But honestly we don't think we are favourites. We just want to concentrate on what we have to do. We're in a very tough group, and first of all, we want to take it step by step, try and survive that group. The talk around is it's the group of death, so hopefully we get out of the group of death and then take it from there.
"A tournament like this, it's short, and you never know what can happen ... We just want to be humble and go about our business in our own way and let the man above take care of our destiny."
The weather man may have more of a say in their fate. Earlier in 2012, before the joyous scenes on the subcontinent, West Indies shivered their way through a low-key tour of England, in which they only managed to win one game. Even the arrival of their freshly anointed spin-bowling talisman Sunil Narine from the IPL could not lift the team - his haul of one wicket in all three formats attesting to pitches that refused to bend to his will.
Narine will return to England as the No. 1-ranked bowler in ODI cricket, with an extra year of international experience (although this will be his first major 50-over tournament) but Bravo said his "trump player" would not be expected to do it all on his own as West Indies attempt to replicate their 2004 Champions Trophy victory in the country.
"Obviously playing in England before he did not have much success and teams tend to say 'okay, he can't bowl outside of the Caribbean, outside of the subcontinent' but he's a world-class player. He's very young and he has achieved a lot in international cricket for the short time he has been there.
"So now is a good opportunity for him again to actually do well. Yes, he's our trump player, our marquee player but he's not under any pressure to perform for us. If he does well, it's a bonus, but we're going to let Sunil just relax and enjoy his cricket and enjoy the competition ahead of him."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo