Windward Islands relish underdog tag
Windward Islands will be relishing their tags as underdogs despite coming into the Nagico Super50 as the defending champions, according to the captain Liam Sebastien. "We know we are the underdogs. Everyone pegs Jamaica as favorites over us tomorrow as it's always been in the past," Sebastien said. "We have been playing good cricket over the past few years with all due respect to the other Caribbean teams. We don't fear anyone and we beat them (Jamaica) comfortably in the semis last year. They are missing players just like us so it will be a good match."
Sebastien also dismissed suggestions that the absence of the injured Darren Sammy and suspended Shane Shillingford would hamper the team, indicating that they won the title last year without Sammy and that the suspension of Shillingford was out of their hands.
"We have to use their absences as a positive. We can't harp on it or let it affect us negatively. It's important for us to get off to a winning start tomorrow, especially in a short format like this where you put yourselves on the backfoot if you lose the first match and then you must win the next two games.
"There's no added pressure. We're the team to beat. They (other teams) look at us as the lesser team but we're not cocky and we'll let our cricket out on the pitch do the talking for us."
Sebastien admitted that the weather was a concern but remained optimistic, especially as he believed that the grassy pitch at the Queen's Park Oval would favour bounce and aid his bowling attack, which he deemed 'adaptable' and 'versatile' even if pitch conditions changed overnight.
David Bernard, the captain of Jamaica, also expressed confidence in his bowlers doing well on the Oval pitch, which he described as more 'dry than expected'. Sheldon Cottrell and the returning Jerome Taylor are expected to lead the charge for the team.
"We must impose ourselves with the aim of winning. Starting off with a win will do well for our confidence and we don't want to play catch-up cricket," Bernard said. "We don't take anybody lightly for for granted and we'll be playing all our matches according to the surface."
Despite missing out on the services of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels for the first few games, Bernard believed that his young team were more than good enough to cope without them, pointing to the likes of Nikita Miller, Jon-Ross Campbell and Horace Miller as the players he expected to make a step up.
"Initially, Gayle wasn't in the squad so we were preparing without him. He came in and then left again. We hope he and Marlon recover speedily but we have capable players. It's irrelevant what Chris can do at this point as we have to play with what we have.
"We cannot underestimate any team. We are a young talented bunch and I think we can win this. No matter who we are missing, we have a good bunch of players to make this work."
Renaldo Matadeen is a sportswriter and social media manager for ESPN Caribbean. He tweets here