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Andrew Fidel Fernando at The Oval
June 10, 2013
On that famous Colombo night, after Marlon Samuels had launched a staggering counterattack with the bat, he came to the bowling crease and made his presence felt there too. When Samuels took a wicket in his final over, he stood mid-pitch, face lit up in jubilation, and began to shudder while dusting himself off. Incoming team-mates committed to the caper. Each one picked a spot on Samuels' body and brushed him down ecstatically. It is a moment few who were in the ground will ever forget, and an emphatic expression of uniquely Caribbean cricketing fun. On the eve of their second Champions Trophy group match, against India at The Oval though, West Indies coach Ottis Gibson hoped his side will be known for more than just their colour.
"That's the one thing you will get when you come to the stadium to watch West Indies play, you will be entertained," Gibson said. "There was a time not long ago where we entertained you and ended up on the wrong side of the result, and we're hoping to change that. We saw against Pakistan a very close, entertaining match - low scoring but very entertaining - and we actually got the right result. We're looking to do the same again."
Samuels and company had helped deliver West Indies' first major world title since 1979 (although they won the Champions Trophy in 2004). In the intervening years - particularly since the mid-1990s - West Indies had slid drastically from their perch atop the cricket world, and Gibson hoped the triumph in Colombo would become the beginning of West Indies' road to regaining credibility.
"When you look at the style of play that we have as a nation, Twenty20 lends itself to the way we play, the way we like to play. Having said that, Twenty20 to me is always about entertainment. The 50‑over format and, more importantly for me, the Test format, is where the real skills of cricket need to be applied.
"In the past, we've had this group of players together, and we've gone to major tournaments with high expectations, and we didn't do as well as we could have done or should have done. Winning the tournament in Sri Lanka gave us huge belief that yes, we can win. We know we have the superstars, we know we have the players, the talent, but we never really got the job done. Sri Lanka gave us a huge belief that we can, and you'll see a sort of renewed attitude within the team, that when we come to major tournaments we're not just here to make the numbers up anymore.
"The rankings say that we are now eighth in the world. We know that on our day we're capable of beating the No. 1 team. We're capable of beating any team in a format like this where it's so short and every game matters."
Having won one match and secured - if fortuitously- top spot with a strong net run rate, they are not far from earning a semi-finals berth. India have been one of the form sides in England so far, however, and shape as West Indies' biggest hurdle in the group. West Indies players have been among the most abundant overseas stars in the IPL, and Gibson hoped that experience would sharpen his side's strategy on Tuesday.
"Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and especially Sunil Narine have been starring in the IPL, so hopefully they've got a lot of information to share when we get back this evening. We'll have a really good discussion about the Indian players and stuff like that, and those guys will form part of the main part of that discussion."
Gibson said their strategy is unlikely to prey on India batsmen's perceived weakness against the short ball and would instead seek to maximise West Indies' strengths. India exited the World Twenty20 in England in 2009, after several batsmen had their techniques exposed, and the same deficiency also contributed to their downfall in England in 2011, when they lost the Test series 4-0 and the ODI series 3-0.
"The last time we used short-pitched bowling, it was Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Michael Holding and people like that," Gibson said. "We don't have those tall guys anymore, so as we saw against Pakistan, we pitched it up, we swung it a little bit and we put it in the right areas. I suppose that will be the strategy going forward."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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