x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

West Indies captain's selection dilemma for 'the favourites'

Ian Bell's injury puts England into disarray but Gayle's arrival makes it a wealth of big-hitters for Sammy to choose from.

Darren Sammy wants his West Indies side to be ‘smart and consistent’.
Darren Sammy wants his West Indies side to be ‘smart and consistent’.

Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, was taken aback by his team's favourites tag but is nonetheless confident they can beat England in the NatWest Series starting today.

The first of three one-day international matches will take place at the Rose Bowl, in Southampton, and Sammy is already struggling to work out how to find a place in the team for each of his long list of six-hitters.

West Indies have not beaten a team ranked above them in an ODI series since Chris Gayle's team won in England five years ago. But the tourists have a welter of power-hitters, athletic fielders and bowling options here and pushed Australia hard in their last series, drawn 2-2 in the Caribbean. "I've not heard favourites and the West Indies in the same sentence for a long time," Sammy said.

"England in England is always difficult. We're not going to take it for granted.

"But we do believe as a team we should win this one-day series, and we've got to go out and play accordingly - smart and be consistent."

"We competed throughout Test series, but we know we are stronger in the one-day series.

"The days we are looking to just compete are gone in one-day cricket. We want to win."

England's plans were thrown into disarray, before the post-Kevin Pietersen era has even started, when Ian Bell edged a ball into his face in practice.

Bell was to have to replaced Pietersen following the batsman's limited-overs retirement, but an attempted pull-shot in training went awry and resulted in a deep gash to his chin.

Bell took 10 stitches and has a possible non-displaced fracture to his jaw, but he has not been ruled out of the match.

"We will have to play it by ear," said Alistair Cook, the captain. "If he's unfit then, of course, we'd have to change, and that's why you've got a squad."

Cook said they would wait till the hours before the game to take the call on Bell's fitness to play. Ravi Bopara, Cook's Essex teammate, could be the likely preferred option if Bell is unable to play.

Sammy, however, is unconcerned by England's worries, saying: "To be honest, I'm more worried about the excitement in our team.

"I can't wait for whichever XI plays."

As for the array of big-hitters, headed by Gayle, it seems Dwayne Smith - who smashed 96 against Middlesex in West Indies' warm-up match at Lord's - may be the unlucky man to miss out.

Sammy welcomed the return of Gayle for the first time since last year's World Cup, revealing he had fitted straight back into the team despite a more stringent training regime.

"He's been himself. He's always been his jovial self in the dressing room," he said.

"He's back better than ever. We welcome him back. We have a new style of training and he's taken on board everything for West Indies cricket.

"Chris is a guy we've all got to manage. The physio is looking after him well.

"He's settled in nicely."

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