Saturday, February 24, 2024

Windies ready to rumble

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Captain Kraigg Brathwaite will hope to oversee the end of West Indies’ 24-year drought without a Test series win against South Africa, when the two teams clash in the opening Test starting at SuperSport Park starting today (4 a.m. T&T time).

West Indies have lost their last eight series against the Proteas dating back to the chastening 5-0 thrashing here in 1999, and have won only one of their last 11 Tests against the hosts in the last 16 years.

Captains like legends Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle, along with Carl Hooper and Denesh Ramdin were unable to lead West Indies to series success against South Africa, but Brathwaite will hope to break the losing trend on his second attempt, after suffering a 2-0 drubbing in the Caribbean two years ago.

“Looking at this series, we’re playing South Africa at home and we know it won’t be easy,” said Brathwaite, who replaced marquee all-rounder Jason Holder as captain in 2021. “We know South Africa are a tough team at home but we’re looking forward to playing some hard days of Test cricket and making West Indians proud.

“We had a Test series in Zimbabwe — obviously a different calibre of team but it was good to get a series win. Looking here at this South African team, they still have a lot of experience and they have world class bowlers and some quality batsmen.

“So we have to play some very good Test cricket and it is important we take control of every hour — we don’t [want to] think about the big picture. But I think once we take care of every hour, every session, I think we can do well in this series.”

West Indies beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in the two-Test series in Bulawayo last month to bounce back from a deflating tour of Australia where they soundly beaten in both Tests.

Those results came on the back of a good year for West Indies in the longest format, Brathwaite leading them to series wins over England and Bangladesh in the Caribbean. The 30-year-old captain, who has averaged 64 over the last year to spearhead his side’s batting, said it was critical West Indies clicked in all departments against South Africa.

“We’re very excited [about this series]. Zimbabwe obviously isn’t a top team in the world so we’re looking forward to challenging ourselves here,” he pointed out. “Australia wasn’t the best of tours so we know we have to improve as batsmen, so we look forward to this series.

“It’s important as openers to set the foundation for the team and we look forward to doing that. Obviously Tage (Tagenarine Chanderpaul) had a fantastic start and I know we will continue great things and as I said, making West Indians proud.”

He continued: “Obviously it is important we have a complete team effort here in South Africa so it was good to see the top order getting some scores in Zimbabwe, and the middle order in this practice game [last week] before this first Test. It’s great and it’s important we put all the pieces together for this Test series.”

Following on from a Zimbabwe series played on slow turning tracks, West Indies will welcome the livelier pitches here, especially with their attack comprising the likes of veteran seamer Kemar Roach and the pace of Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph.

And Brathwaite said the attack was confident they could execute their plans and find success in the series. “I think we have some very good bowlers and I think we as a group look forward to obviously bowling at any batting lineup in the world,” he said.

“I know the guys really mark themselves hard. We won’t be focusing on what teams have done in the past because that’s the past. It’s important we hit our straps and discipline is very very important. Before we go thinking too many things in terms of [South Africa’s] batting lineup, I think we [must] stick to our plans and results will take care of themselves.”

SQUADS:

SOUTH AFRICA – Temba Bavuma (captain), Gerald Coetzee, Tony de Zorzi, Dean Elgar, Simon Harmer, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Senuran Muthusamy, Anrich Nortje, Keegan Petersen, Kagiso Rabada, Ryan Rickelton

WEST INDIES – Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Alick Athanaze, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Akeem Jordan, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Gudakesh Motie, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach, Devon Thomas

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