Competing captains, India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni and West Indian Chris Gayle, agreed that – based on recent history – the Sabina Park pitch will favour spin bowling and batsmen will have to play watchfully to achieve success.
“The wicket can be a bit on the slower side, so it won’t be easy to go after the bowlers, you have to work your innings through and spinners will be crucial,” Dhoni said on Thursday at a press conference to formally launch the four match Digicel Series.
And his counterpart Gayle agreed, saying that the pitch has been playing slower than it had played in the past.
“It was a bit slow (during the last international game – West Indies v England), a couple of turns in the last couple of days but this is a One Day International so we don’t know what to expect. Hopefully we will get good weather and we will get a good game of cricket,” a more reserved Gayle said as he responded to whether he had any concerns about the nature of the pitch.
Gayle also cautioned that, despite India missing two key players in Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, the side is still a formidable one, Dhoni accepted that in recent times India had not performed outstandingly in the Caribbean in the 50 over format of the game.
In 2006, India lost the Digicel ODI Series and shockingly failed to progress beyond the group stage of the 2007 World Cup.
“It’s not an easy thing to forget especially that World Cup. The last time we toured here we didn’t have a very good One Day Series – but we have the talent and the capacity to do well out here,” Dhoni noted after both teams were welcomed to the Caribbean by Digicel Jamaica’s Head of Marketing, Wayne Miller.
The Indian captain, who also captains the Indian Premier League team, Chennai Super Kings, believes that the greatest challenge for his side will be adaptability.
“It’s all about adaptability because in the last five months this is the first time we will be playing in hot and humid conditions. In the last five months wherever we have toured it has been cold,” Dhoni recalled shortly after an intense practice session in the sweltering heat and oppressive Kingston humidity.
“We have prepared ourselves quite well. The last few days we spent lots of time outdoors getting accustomed to the conditions,” Dhoni revealed while highlighting that, despite the brevity of the Digicel Series, the squad is highly motivated to win.
“Motivation is never a problem when it comes to the India cricket team. The guys are well motivated, it’s not about the long season we have been through because it is not the first time we have gone through a long season, that’s not a worry,” Dhoni assured.
Gayle said that while his players, who have also had a lengthy season thus far, may be feeling some minor signs of fatigue, it will not hamper performance.
“It’s our job, there might be a bit of fatigue there but it is something we’ve looked at and our main focus is to get out there and get our job done and try and put these things aside and focus on cricket,” Gayle asserted.
Asked about the exclusion of Trinidadian batsman Lendl Simmons and St Lucian all rounder Darren Sammy, which some pundits have considered to be surprising, Gayle explained that the squad was selected sometime ago.
“The squad was selected right after the (tour to) England, prior to the (ICC World Twenty20 Championship). This squad is for the first two games. He (Simmons) played well in the (ICC World) Twenty20 (Championship), but he didn’t get many runs in the England (ODIs) so it’s one of those things,” Gayle explained.