CAPTAIN Chris Gayle says his West Indies team must overcome England in the Digicel Series 2009, which begins Wednesday in Jamaica, to prove that the Caribbean side is on the rise again after a long period of struggle.
“I think this Digicel Series against England will definitely determine where we’re heading. (They are) good opponents, better than New Zealand, so the challenges will be there and I’m sure all the guys are looking forward to it,” Gayle said at the launch of the Digicel Series 2009 at Sabina Park on Tuesday afternoon.
“The first game is very important. Actually, a good start will do well for us.”
England’s skipper, Andrew Strauss, was also keen for his tourists to begin the four-match Digicel Series well: “The first Test match is crucial and probably the first day of the first Test match is crucial as well,” the left-handed opener said.
“I think probably both teams will be going all guns blazing on the first day. Both teams will have to absorb some pressure and the team that deals with it best will come out on top.”
England is expected to be boosted by the return to fitness of experienced all-rounder, Andrew Flintoff, who seems to have overcome a worrisome side strain.
But the West Indies were set back by an injury to batsman, Dale Richards, who had been expected to make his debut on Wednesday. The 32-year-old from Barbados did not appear in the nets on Tuesday, still struggling with an injury to his right foot that he suffered in the last round of the regional tournament.
Coach, John Dyson, all but ruled him out of contention: “His foot was swollen this morning,” Dyson said. “To be honest with you, I’m probably more pessimistic than optimistic about his chances of playing.”
Richards’ fitness problem means a likely place for Xavier Marshall in front of his fellow Jamaicans for the first time in international cricket. Captain Gayle was sure his 22-year-old star would rise to the occasion: “Marshall didn’t have the best series in New Zealand (in December), but we’re not going to kill him too much. If he gets the opportunity, definitely it’s his home so obviously, he’ll want to produce here. He’ll be getting the support from us and the spectators as well.”
The first Digicel Test begins at Kingston’s Sabina Park on Wednesday, beginning at 10 a.m. local times (11 a.m. Eastern Caribbean time).