West Indies captain Chris Gayle is confident his team can overcome an England backlash in the second Digicel Test beginning at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Friday February 13.
The hosts head into the second of four Digicel Tests after an overpowering innings victory in the opening match in Jamaica, where England were skittled for 51, their third lowest total ever.
“We have good momentum going into the game but we’re not going into the game too relaxed and too overconfident,” Gayle said after the home team’s final training session on the ground named after the most famous of Antiguan cricketers.
Gayle warned: “The England team is definitely going to look to rebound a bit strong at us and try to make some sort of statement. We definitely have to stop them from coming back too strong at us.
“We definitely have to keep our feet on the ground because we’re in a rare position that we don’t normally get in. We just have to try and capitalize on this start as much as possible.”
The West Indies will be going against the grain and changing a winning team, with batsman Xavier Marshall left out of the squad after a duck on home turf.
Marshall’s place is likely to go to in-form left-hander, Ryan Hinds, who has racked up 585 runs in seven innings for Barbados in the regional first-class competition.
Trinidad & Tobago right-hander, Lendl Simmons, who scored 282 off England less than two weeks ago for West Indies “A” has also been added to the squad and could make his Test debut.
Opener Devon Smith, after a failure in his only innings in Jamaica, finds his place is under threat. Gayle is aware that the Jamaica victory is not enough to prove that the West Indies are becoming a force in world cricket again: “This (Digicel) Test series is very, very huge. This would mean a lot to us to actually win the series.
“After doing pretty well in New Zealand, then to come back here against stronger opponents in England, actually to beat England here would be superb.”
Gayle’s opposite number, Andrew Strauss, knows that no amount of talking can heal the wounds of his team’s embarrassing loss in the first Digicel Test: “I’m pretty much of the opinion that meetings can only take you so far. The key is to get out here under pressure and perform.
“The guys are very focused about that. They are very keen to walk the walk rather than talk the talk. I think we are very motivated to put on a better performance than we did last week and, hopefully, if we’re able to do that, we’ll put the West Indies under pressure.”
West Indies: Chris Gayle (captain), Denesh Ramdin (vice-captain), Devon Smith, Lendl Simmons, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Ryan Hinds, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brendan Nash, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn, Daren Powell, Fidel Edwards, Lionel Baker.
England:Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Owais Shah, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Steve Harmison, Ryan Sidebottom, James Anderson, Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann, Adil Rashid, Tim Ambrose.
Umpires: Tony Hill, New Zealand, Daryl Harper, Australia.
TV/Third Umpire: Rudi Koertzen, South Africa.
For match pictures, reports and stats visit www.digicelcricket.com