KINGSTON (Jamaica), 27 JUNE: Eager to leave their Champions Trophy eliminations behind, hosts West Indies and Sri Lanka will square off here tomorrow in the opening match of a tri-nation one-day series which also features India.
The West Indies were eliminated in the group stage of the Champions trophy when they lost to South Africa via the Duckworth-Lewis method and the Sri Lankans were humbled in a semi-final by eventual champions India.
Sri Lanka beat Australia and finalists England en route to the knock-out stage while the Caribbeans were disfavoured by luck as the weather put paid to their hopes in a crucial match against the Proteas.
The teams have come into the tournament with almost the same set of players as did duty in England, except that the hosts have left out Ramnaresh Sarwan and Jason Holder. The Sri Lankans were forced to leave out injured opener Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin has re-joined the West Indian side after serving out his ban for wrongly claiming a catch against Pakistan in the Champions Trophy. The Sri Lankans have not played much in this part of the world. The last time they competed here was in the 2007 World Cup but the conditions might support their spin-oriented attack, which includes Ajantha Mendis, who has of late been labelled a Twenty20 specialist.
The weather is a matter of concern here too and if the rain gods allow a full game, it will be an interesting contest between the West Indies batting and Sri Lankan bowlers.
The spin trio of Ajantha Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake and Rangana Herath will pose a threat to the Caribbeans, who are expected to rely on good starts by the flamboyant Chris Gayle.
The Sri Lankan batting will once again revolve around the ever-reliable senior duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. The Caribbean line-up, led by Dwayne Bravo, is full of potent match-winning all-rounders and the home conditions would give them extra confidence and motivation to do well.
West Indies head coach Ottis Gibson said they had been “gutted” after what happened in England but reposed full faith in his players.
“It’s to put away those silly little mistakes that we made in England. We felt we had a good opportunity to win that tournament and we want to win this one and prove ourselves right,” he said ahead of the clash.
Gibson said his “players are taking more responsibility and are starting to believe a lot more” in their ability to do well as a team. Skipper Dwayne Bravo said his side had a good chance to win the tournament.
“It’s always good to play at home (and) we have a good record here. We want to start well, aim to get into the final, but it’s not going to be easy. We respect both teams and their positions, and it is for me as a captain to try and get the guys (playing) as consistently as possible and to get them to believe in themselves, believe in each other, so we can play some good cricket and entertain our fans,” Bravo said.