ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
England v West Indies, World Cup 2011, Chennai
Sammy eyes Caribbean revival
Of the current squad, only Shivnarine Chanderpaul was around the last time West Indies beat England in the World Cup and Darren Sammy, the captain, hopes that this campaign could mark the turning point
March 16, 2011
Of the current squad, only Shivnarine Chanderpaul - barely old enough to hold a bat - was around the last time West Indies beat England in the World Cup. A few might have watched footage of what Vivian Richards, Collis King and Joel Garner did to England in that Lord's final of 1979, and Darren Sammy, the captain, hopes that this campaign could mark the turning point in the fortunes of a side whose fall from grace is one of sport's more sobering stories.
"It's massive for us as cricketers," he said on the eve of the England game. "We came here as underdogs and we've managed to stay focussed. If we manage to achieve our ultimate goal, it'll be a huge boost for the people of the Caribbean."
In what is undoubtedly the tougher of the two groups, West Indies were the team many expected to slip up against the lesser sides. Instead, they disposed of Ireland and Netherlands quite comfortably and gave Bangladesh the kind of pasting that the teams led by Lloyd and Richards were famed for.
In contrast, England have slipped on both banana peels placed in their path. If they fail to register a fifth consecutive World Cup win against West Indies tomorrow, their Phileas Fogg-like adventure that started last November with a flight to Australia will be over.
Sammy isn't someone you associate with mental-disintegration tactics, but there was certainly an element of sledge to his thoughts on where the English stand right now. "It's a good time to play them," he said. "They've been on the road a long time. I saw somewhere that they've had four days at home in the last five months. Maybe some of them want to go home to their families. You never know."
On another grass-free and bone-hard pitch, West Indies are boosted by the return of Chris Gayle. Kieron Pollard has been their big-hitting star in recent games, but a Gayle special of the kind that flattened South Africa in a Champions Trophy semi-final (2006) is near inevitable at some point during the competition.
Sammy himself has excelled with the ball while disappointing with the bat. With Dwayne Bravo now back home nursing his injured knee, it's all the more important that he finds his scoring touch soon. "Every game we've played, one player stands up," said Sammy. "I'd like to think a big innings is around the corner."
Having lost every toss so far, he isn't unduly concerned about it, though it does look the sort of surface where you want to bat first. And while others, and Graeme Swann in particular, have been vocal about the dew factor in some games, Sammy wasn't fussed. "We've managed it quite well," he said. "You just get a towel and wipe the ball. Simple."
Swann is one bowler West Indies will need to be especially wary of though, with four left-handers in their top five. "He has been England's premier bowler," said Sammy. "No one can question what he's done over the last two years. But he's also human. We have batsmen capable of dominating."
The West Indies view Ottis Gibson's experiences as England's bowling coach as one more point in their favour - "He's aware of weaknesses and we'll look to exploit them tomorrow" - though they're unlikely to change the combination of Kemar Roach's pace and Sulieman Benn's spin that has worked so well for them with the new ball.
Having watched Imran Tahir excel against England at this very venue a little over a week ago, West Indies will no doubt be tempted to try a leggie themselves. "It's food for thought," said Sammy, "whether we should play [Devendra] Bishoo tomorrow."
After two devastating innings against "lesser" opposition, this is also Pollard's chance to show that there's more to him lucrative IPL contracts. "Kieron and I had a chat, about finding the best place for him," said Sammy. "We worked out where he feels most comfortable."
If England's bowlers fail to find their length, and bowl as they did against Ireland and Bangladesh, Pollard could literally hit them out of the competition. Even the pretty pagoda-like structures at the top of the new stands won't be safe.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
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