ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

West Indies v South Africa, World Cup 2011, Delhi

Sammy urges 'belief' from his team

Sharda Ugra in Delhi

February 23, 2011

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

All that is heard on the day of a big match are soundbites meant to fling challenges at the opposition and all that is seen is the strutting-around of the obviously confident. When the West Indians went into their nets at the Ferozshah Kotla practice area, they went down another route.

They gathered around in a circle, listening to their coach Otis Gibson speak. Some had arms around a team-mate's shoulder and even the imperious Chris Gayle looking deferential. After a while the circle drew closer and the heads were bowed, the voices quieter. It was as if the men in maroon had gathered together in prayer. The West Indies may be confident, given a chance one or two of them would love to provoke their opposition but what they tried to gathered together today in that circle of comrades, was something more elemental: belief.

It is the one word that crops up in all their conversations leading up to their first World Cup match where, like the Bangladeshis who now precede them in the ICC's ODI rankings, they are up against a far stronger adversary.

South Africa are favourites here, not just because they have beaten them 11 times in a row, with two consecutive 5-0 thrashings at home and away. The last time the West Indians defeated South Africa was also the last time the two teams met in India, in the semi-finals of the 2006 Champions Trophy in Jaipur. Four of the top six West Indian batsmen who chased down 258 that night will still find their way into the line-up tomorrow. It was the last ICC event played in India and the West Indies made the final.

It is why the West Indians must have belief; in terms of sheer providence, they are back in the same country where they last made a World Cup semi-final and the last ICC event final. In terms of the cricket, if this is to be a batsman's World Cup, the West Indies are as well stacked in that department as any of the other teams who are thought of as the events leading contenders.

What the West Indies seek, as captain Darren Sammy said at his pre-match media session, was not the flamboyance of their batting stars but the unit's overall consistency. If their batsmen can churn out a chunkful of runs, as opposed to breathtaking cameos, it will give their fairly unregarded bowling attack something to go at. As the light of a Delhi spring faded by 6pm, the team came onto the centre of the Kotla ground and had a brief bowling run-in on the wicket two strips away from the one for tomorrow's match. The medium pacers were managing to hit something just below the keeper's knee roll and only the quicker men, like the deceptively small, wiry Roach, were able to land the ball into the keeper's gloves near shoulder-height.

Spin is going to be every team's calling card at this tournament and it is here that the West Indies find themselves without the range that is available to their opponents tomorrow. With two left-arm spinners in Sulieman Benn and the raw Nikita Miller, Gayle's off-spin that will have to go from part-time to full throttle. To succeed, the West Indian medium pacers would do well to borrow what Sammy calls the information available to them from Dwayne Bravo's IPL experiences, Gibson's bowling nous as well as the ODI record of non-Asian bowlers in India.

Two of their own, Winston Benjamin (36 wickets at 33.5 from 23 ODIs) and Courtney Walsh (35 wickets at 28.5 in 32 ODIs), lead the pack in terms of wickets. The most impressive of the non-Asians happens to be Australian left-armer Nathan Bracken (33 wickets at 20.96 in 18 ODIs) and Allan Donald (28 wickets at 19.47 in 15 ODIs), who is now signed up as bowling coach with New Zealand.

The South Africans have been shown due respect to them being an all-round, thorough, completely professional team with small reminders from two of the West Indies' leading men. Dwayne Bravo said yesterday: "They have a bad history as far as the World Cup is concerned but they are a very good team and you can't take that away from them."

On his weekend ruminations, Gayle said the West Indies will have to: "Be on their A-game against the South Africans and once we get a sniff in, we try to capitalise on it as much as possible." He paused and went on: "Give and take, they are beatable, all teams are beatable, we just have to try and be discreet going about our business." The West Indians have been so discreet that no one is giving them a chance. Sammy's reminded everyone dreaming of an upset that, "Cricket is played on the day. It does not matter whether you are No. 1 or No. 9 [in the world], you still have to go out there and do what you have to do, in order to come out victorious."

There could be no better time or place for the West Indies to put their annus horribilis behind them than at the Ferozshah Kotla, named after an medieval fortress that is now in ruins. The team has been in touch with the men who built the Caribbean cricketing citadel. Sammy said he had got messages from the man he called "Sir Viv" and had spent time chatting to Clive Lloyd. Amidst the talk of a fraying legacy and a shrinking demographic, Sammy offered a different, wider vision. He spoke of the pressures of being the only St Lucian in the team and why handling the captaincy was one of the privileges of the job. Cricket, he reminded everyone, "is the one uniting force for the Caribbean people". He said all the fans wanted was to wake up early on Thursday morning, and seeing "that fight, that passion we had back in the 80s. We have to go out and execute properly - so that the fans who would be waking up early in the morning could be happy with our performances".

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 17 
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Posted by Tony on (February 24, 2011, 8:18 GMT)

Good luck to the Windies side, I really hope you have a good campaign, starting next match!! This one though is a Saffa win. WI could upset the applecart later and edge England to the 3rd spot, or even 2nd ahead of India if all goes well. Realistically though, it is going to be quite a tight race between England, Bangladesh and Windies. The side from these 3 that can cause an upset against India or SA (Please not SA) could easily land up in the semi's or even final.

Posted by KISH on (February 24, 2011, 7:54 GMT)

I don't know why you think South Africans are better in the spin bowling department than the West Indians. I beleive West Indies have a better spin bowling department. Benn will be hard to bat against. West Indies' worries are in their fast bowling and their fragile batting which can be the best in the world when it gets going. The batsmen has to find a way to make some calculated aggression. I know it is easily said than done. But, Gayle, Bravo's and Sarwan has definitely got it in them to make 320+ score against any bowling attack in any country - let alone against the South Africans in India. My prediction is, West Indies in a thriller.

Posted by Steve on (February 24, 2011, 7:22 GMT)

SA will lose to WI, IND and IRE and hence will be out of race in the first round itself. Graeme Smith's over confidence will sink SA. As far as today's match is concerned, Chris Gayle will murder SA.

Posted by Sunil on (February 24, 2011, 7:10 GMT)

I agree with authentik,Ms Ugra,amidst all the hype and thunder surrounding the THIS ARTICLE ,does more to bring the spirit and ethos of a one proud cricketing force back into our mindspace.Just a question who keeps wickets for the Windies?There is something about Darren Sammy, no he isn't as gifted as LLOYD, nor the leader that that the great Worrell was,but ,he does seem to indicate the aptitude that is so marked with the required deference to the past greats,that every team selected on the basis of their talent and potential require someone to help them fulfill the promise.The Windies whether they win or lose today will definitely push the more fancied Bangladeshis for the quarter final place.And ,in Pollard they have the Kluesner that the Proteas lack in their seemingly perfect team balance.

Posted by Saad on (February 24, 2011, 4:58 GMT)

We know who the favorites are going into this match, and I don't see the West Indians being able to go through the defense of Jacques Kallis. But if they do break through his defense we can certainly see our first surprise in the tournament. For a change the West Indians should rely on the spinners from their bowling and not the good old raw pace and bounce in these conditions. Chris Gayle can be very handy with his off breaks and could turn the game with some crucial spells in the death overs. Also expect Kemar Roach to be the pacer that the captain will call upon to break partnerships and the oppositions momentum. The jury is still out on the West Indies batting and how their openers will fair, Gayle and Smith or whoever they decide to open with, will hold the key.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 24, 2011, 4:45 GMT)

WI are group of players who will give d Caribbean people their best later on this morning. once our front line batsmen get going... look SA we will be on u guys.... good luck n hope u come out victorious

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 24, 2011, 4:35 GMT)

Sammy you don't deserve to be in the team forget about captaining the team

On your own you should resign and sit outside so that WI may win by chance .

Posted by Dave on (February 24, 2011, 0:28 GMT)

Carn the Windies. A win here would also put real pressure on Bangladesh for their next match against Ireland, and of course their game (touted long ago as the decider for 4th in the group) against WI.

Hope it`s a good one.

Posted by ez on (February 24, 2011, 0:06 GMT)

We WI for life.... Get that straight... WI can do it so SA better beware. Don't blink cuz WI will be on you. SA is going down and WI will be VOTORIOUS. LOOK OUT!!!!!!!

Posted by Deena on (February 23, 2011, 23:24 GMT)

Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul and the Bravos are all world class. Windies just need a big dose of passion and pride and above all never say die attitude.

SA would have done its homework like the machine that it is. Windies must play its own criciket, the west indies way. Not calypso collapso but with pride passion and professionalism!!!

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