West Indies raring and ready
West Indies team manager Jimmy Adams believes the attitude of his players is spot-on ahead of next month's Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
Adams, who played in the first ever tournament in 1988 and later captained the West Indies at Test and ODI level, is currently presiding over the side's pre-tournament tour of Pakistan. And even though they lost against the home side in Karachi on Friday to go 2-1 down in a four-match series, Adams likes what he has seen from his players so far.
"I only met up with them a couple of weeks ago but their attitude has really impressed me," he said. "They seem fairly well focussed. I have seen too many cases of talent going begging because of the wrong attitude but that does not seem to be the case with these players.
"The attitude is right so they are adapting very quickly and we are delighted with the way the cricket has been going."
Despite that loss on Friday the West Indies have been very competitive on the tour so far, winning their opening match against a representative side before a narrow four-wicket defeat in the first match against their Pakistan counterparts last Sunday.
The side bounced back with a seven-run win in the second match on Tuesday but lost on Friday with the remaining match set to take place on Saturday 28 January before the team moves on to Colombo.
"This time in Pakistan has been vital for us," said Adams. "The boys had training camps [in Trinidad] before and after Christmas and lots of them have been playing trial games with the big men ahead of our domestic season.
"It means they are not short of cricket but now we are finally seeing them in match action and we can assess how they are coping with conditions which will be similar to those we expect to find in Sri Lanka."
The West Indies are all too aware of the need to hit the round running when they get to Colombo because they find themselves in a real cut-throat group - Group B - that includes fellow big guns Australia and South Africa as well as the United States of America.
And with only two sides able to progress to the Super League stage even one defeat could be enough to shatter any dreams a team may have of lifting the trophy.
"Everyone is aware of it," said Adams as he reflected on how tight Group B could become. "But one of the jobs of the team management is to make sure the players are focussed on the processes they have to go through, about playing good cricket, rather than worrying about the end result. If we play our best cricket then the rest should look after itself and if we still get beaten despite having done that then so be it."
One of the West Indies' main strengths is their spin attack and that should leave them well-placed to take advantage of conditions that traditionally favour the slower bowlers.
They have offspinners Sharmarh Brooks, Andre McCarthy and Sunil Narine, as well as left-arm spinner Rishi Bachan, the one player in the squad who took part in the 2004 tournament in Bangladesh, when the West Indies lost to Pakistan in the final.
Opening batsman Richard Ramdeen is also expected to bowl his left-arm spin at some stage and captain Leon Johnson can also bowl in the same style. It all means the side appears almost spoiled for choice in the slow-bowling department.
And, encouragingly for the West Indies, their spinners have impressed in Pakistan against batsmen schooled in playing that style of bowling. Seventeen-year-old Brooks from Barbados took 3 for 34 in the first match against Pakistan while Trinidad and Tobago's Bachan captured 4 for 46 in Tuesday's win.
Bachan is one of five Trinidad and Tobago representatives in the squad while there are three players each from Guyana and Barbados, two from the Windward Islands and one from Jamaica.
Spin is not the only weapon in the West Indies' bowling arsenal. They also have some useful young fast bowlers in Nelon Pascal, Kemar Roach and Javon Searles with the later taking five wickets in Friday's match in Karachi.
With the bat Ramdeen and Gajanand Singh have been opening the batting in Pakistan, and Singh and Jason Mohammed scored half-centuries in the latest tour match.
Captain Johnson, from Guyana, has batted at No 3 on the tour and made 117 in last Tuesday's victory while Kieron Pollard made 52 in the same match. The West Indies also have options in the wicketkeeping department with Andre Fletcher and William Perkins vying for the gloves, although both men can play as specialist batsmen if required.
It is early days and the cut and thrust of the World Cup will be the true test of the players' abilities, but the early indications are positive and reports of the demise of West Indies cricket, prompted by the senior side's slide down the ICC Rankings, may be proved to be premature if some of these players can fulfil their apparent potential.
"We still have the raw material, there is no doubt about that," said Adams.
West Indies squad Leon Johnson (capt), Jason Mohammed, Rishi Bachan, Shamarh Brooks, Andre Fletcher, Andre McCarthy, Sunil Narine, Nelon Pascal, William Perkins, Kieron Pollard, Richard Ramdeen, Kemar Roach, Javon Searles and Gajanand Singh.