West Indies T20 captain Carlos Brathwaite has pointed out that top-order issues have been the major worry for them in the two matches against Pakistan in Dubai. West Indies were reduced to 17 for 4 in the first T20, before being bowled out for 115, and were tottering at 19 for 3 while chasing 161 in the second T20. They lost both matches and now the teams move to Abu Dhabi for the third T20 on Tuesday.
"The one glaring thing I can see [that went wrong in the first two matches] is the batting, especially top-order batting," Brathwaite said on Monday. "We haven't been making the most of the first six overs with only two fielders out. And then it became harder and harder…in the first game we had five wickets down. And then chasing 160 and [being] only 20-odd after the first six, it's going to be a lot more difficult especially with such huge boundaries. So our top-order batting and the misuse of the first six overs was our downfall in the first two games."
Their top three batsmen - Johnson Charles, Evin Lewis and Andre Fletcher - fell for low scores, leaving much of the work for the middle and lower order. While openers Charles and Lewis managed scores of 7 and 10, and 1 and 3 respectivly, No. 3 Fletcher scored 2 and 29. Among all batsmen who have batted in the two T20s, only one - Dwayne Bravo - has scored over 30. Brathwaite said it was the collective effort he was concerned about, and not the performance of any single player, when asked about Andre Fletcher's form.
"It's about each and every person, not only one single one," Brathwaite said. "As a batting unit we did not come to the party, we didn't perform as we wanted to do in the two games. We don't want to single out Fletcher. He has done very very well for the West Indies in the recent past and if you remember he had scored a match-winning 80-odd against Sri Lanka in the [T20] World Cup. So one or two bad games do not make him a bad player. Fletcher knows what he has to do to be better than he has been in the first two days, so has the top order. It's about them going back to the rooms, recalibrating, finding ways and means to execute different plans."
West Indies' biggest positive has been their legspinner Samuel Badree, their only bowler to concede at less than seven runs per over in the series so far. Even though West Indies were defending only 115 in the first T20, he opened the bowling and finished with 4-0-27-1, taking the only wicket that fell. In the second T20, Badree was their most economical bowler with figures of 4-0-24-1. He bowled Pakistan opener Sharjeel Khan on both occasions.
"Simplicity [is his strong point], he keeps it simple, he knows his strengths," Brathwaite said about Badree. "I think himself and Imad Wasim are quite similar, as in they are not big turners of the ball and they probably won't keep you awake at night but when they get into the game and the way they bowl wicket to wicket - you miss I hit - that's been successful for Badree, the No. 1 bowler in the world and you can see why."
Brathwaite also reflected on his learnings as captain from the second series he has been leading his team in. He took over from Darren Sammy and won his first series as T20 captain when they beat India 1-0 in the two-match series in Florida last month. Brathwaite said he was feeling more confident with his role as captain with more matches under his belt, even though they were trailing 2-0 in the current series.
"I have learnt a lot. So I am not really judging myself and thinking because I want to win the series and make the West Indies fans happy," he said. "If we can help the fans to continue to enjoy T20 cricket then I'd think I have done a good job. Up until now, we haven't so it's up to me to motivate the guys for the next game to help put a smile on the fans' faces.
"I don't know if it's more comfortable or more familiar but I'm still new into the job, but that's not an excuse [for losing]. As we go on, I feel a lot more confidence with things. I don't know for how long I'll be in the job for but just want us to do a good job and even get better at it."
The visitors had faced extremely hot conditions in Dubai last week and are likely to face more of that in Abu Dhabi with the highest temperature expected to go close to 40 degrees. Brathwaite said they had not adjusted that poorly but stated it was more likely to be a bigger factor during the ODIs and Tests in the coming weeks.
"It is what it is. The heat won't change, probably it will be hotter as we go into the 50-over as we start early and then Test cricket which will see longer days. So I won't say it's easy but you know we have to adjust, we haven't adjusted that poorly. However, we have completed the 20 overs within the time frame and coming off the field don't think too many guys were panting. So we seemed fit enough to get through 20 overs with good intensity. The heat is a factor but I don't think it had any bearing on them getting on to 160 and us not restricting them to 140 or 150."