GROS ISLET, St Lucia – West Indies’ near three-decade-long wait for a series win over South Africa will not be bearing heavily on captain Kraigg Brathwaite’s mind when the two teams clash in the opening Test of the two-match series at the Daren Sammy National Stadium on Thursday.
Brathwaite was not yet born when West Indies beat the Proteas in a one-off Test in Bridgetown 29 years ago, in a match marking the African nation’s re-admission to international cricket.
Since then, West Indies have gone seven series against South Africa – including three in the Caribbean – without a single series victory, and have managed a mere two Test wins in the last 27 meetings between the two sides.
Brathwaite, appointed full-time captain ahead of the Sri Lanka series in March, said instead of worrying about the past, the side’s singular focus would be on extending the discipline which has seen them go unbeaten this year in four Tests, and simply letting results “take care of themselves”.
“For us as a team, since January we have been doing certain things [well] and obviously we still have to improve in those areas but for us, it’s just to go out there and do the simple things right,” Brathwaite told an online media conference.
“I think results will take care of [themselves]. I’ve not been one to look at [past results]. We know South Africa will be challenging – we know that as a team. But I think once we do the small things right, that’s what I like to focus on, and then results will take care of themselves.”
He continued: “For us, it is a continuation of the good things we started from January in Bangladesh.
“For me, it’s quite simple – we’ve got to keep the same attitude we had and the [same] discipline.
“As a team, you obviously want to bat well, you want to bowl well and you want to field well and I think as a team, once we keep the attitude as bowlers we’re sticking to the plans, as batters pretty much the same thing, [success will come].
“For me, it’s a whole team effort and for us, we just want to keep that standard pretty high.”
Brathwaite will lead a side that sees four changes to the squad which featured in the nil-all series draw against the Sri Lankans.
Gone are the out-of-form left-handed pair of John Campbell and Darren Bravo, while speedster Shannon Gabriel is injured and left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican has been dropped.
Shai Hope and Kieran Powell have both been recalled along with off-spinning all-rounder Roston Chase, while selectors have gambled on uncapped teenaged pacer Jayden Seales, who is without a regional first-class game to his name.
Brathwaite said the changes in personnel had not affected the upbeat spirit in the Windies camp and regardless of the composition of the final XI, he expected to see a disciplined execution of team plans.
“For sure I’m getting that same energy. The last three days has said a lot about us as a team. I thought the guys really put in a lot of effort at practice and as I said before, preparation is the key,” he stressed.
“I think the guys are excited about the series. It will be a challenging one but you can see it in the guys’ eyes, they’re ready to go.
“We have plans as a team and for me, it’s just to go out there and do them. We have different plans for different batsmen and it’s just about executing. I wouldn’t think too far ahead though about if [we will go hard at them] or whatever.
“As a team, we have to stay disciplined with those plans, do the simple things right and as a bowling unit I think we will do a good job against South Africa’s batting lineup.”
He continued: “As a team, both as batters and bowlers, we know what we have to do, whether we’ve played a hundred games or two games, and the guys are ready to go. As batsmen and bowlers, we know the job we have to do and we’ll go out there and give it a hundred per cent.
“We had a good series against Sri Lanka. I don’t think pretty much [anything] will change but the decision hasn’t yet been made regarding [team composition]. Whatever combination we come up with, I’m quite confident in it for sure.”
West Indies start the series sixth in the ICC Test rankings – one notch higher than the Proteas – following a shock 2-0 series victory away to Bangladesh and then drawing with Sri Lanka at home.
WEST INDIES – Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales.
SOUTH AFRICA – Dean Elgar (captain), Temba Bavuma (vice captain), Quinton de Kock, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Anrich Nortje, Keegan Peterson , Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lizaad Williams , Prenelan Subrayen, Marco Jansen.