SHARJAH– West Indies captain Shai Hope said he was ready for the dawn of another era for his side on Sunday when they face the hosts United Arab Emirates in the first One-day International in their series of three.
The 29-year-old Barbadian will lead the No. 10-ranked Caribbean side into battle for the first bilateral series against the 19th-ranked Emiratis, looking to further develop the collective talent, and becoming a more formidable fighting force in preparation for the qualification tournament for the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup later this year in India.
It will also be the first occasion for Hope and his teammates to work under the guidance of new white-ball head coach Daren Sammy and his coaching staff that includes fellow former captains Carl Hooper and Floyd Reifer, along with former New Zealand all-rounder James Franklin, as they try to reverse a sorry record over the past year in which the visitors have won only five of their last 18 ODIs.
“I can definitely commend the communication because I see everyone being clear and frank, and that’s one of the main principles here,” he said in an interview with CWI Media on the eve of the match. “We didn’t have many training sessions to focus on more physical stuff, but there’s been more stuff based around the mental side of the game and the mindset.
“We know that Sammy loves loves his stats and his planning, so I think we’re all on the same page where we’re looking to move West Indies cricket forward. I’m excited to be here, and I’m excited to see the guys coming in very nicely now, and I hope we can continue to do good things for West Indies.”
The side is without a number of regular players such as Jason Holder, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Akeal Hosein, and Romario Shepherd because Cricket West Indies agreed to allow them time off to rest and recuperate following their involvement with the gruelling Indian Premier League.
Hope said the main focus of the trip, apart from winning, was seeing players grow into the roles that have been assigned to them, so that a core group can be developed to serve not only the short-term, but long-term interest of the side.
“It’s just simply continued development and trying to get some progression from here in the UAE and trying to see follows improve in whatever way they can,” he said. “Even though it’s going to be long and hard journey, I just want to see progression and one per cent of improvement every single day.
“I don’t just see it as another series because every time we step onto the park, the aim is to perform for West Indies, and it gives some news guys the opportunity to showcase their skills on the world stage, but there are also a few members of the qualifiers squad, so it gives us some prep in the meantime towards that important task.
“I just want to see the guys continue to grow. The main thing for me is development. Over time, we are going to get better, and hopefully that one per cent [of improvement] can be shown here in the UAE.”
Hope said the batting had shown good signs of improvement over the last year, but he was making a conscious effort to be more aggressive, especially in the back-end of the innings, and was looking to lead by example and spur the other players to bat with a certain degree of freedom.
“I think the way the game is played now, we’ve got to pretty much keep up with the times and find ways to adapt and improve our games,” he said. “For me, I’m trying to be a bit more aggressive in my strokeplay, and it’s something I want to send down to the team as well.
“I want us to continue to focus on trying to find ways to score. I think in the past, we just tried to occupy the crease a bit too much, rather than executing our strengths because we’ve been known for scoring fast and hitting boundaries series, so it’s a bit of a conscious effort to improve my aggression in the middle.”
The area that needed the most work, Hope said, was the bowling, especially being able to take wickets with the new ball and in the middle periods of innings to restrict opposing sides to more manageable totals.
“It’s there for us to see,” he said. “We have got the information. We have got the stats. It’s just about trying to find solutions to be taking those wickets early on and competing a lot more in middle overs because if we allow batters to get in, it’s going to be very easy for them to set up in the back end to make us chase some big totals.”
In the team’s previous ODI series on the Tour of South Africa, Hope batted at No. 4, rather than open the batting, where he has had much of his success scoring most of his 4 452 runs at an average of 50, making him one of the most prolific in the format over the past few years.
He said where he bats in the order remained a ticklish topic, but he was willing to perform whatever role the team needed in an effort for them to have sustained success, and he hinted there could be a surprising change in the order against the UAE.
“Going forward I think batting at four will give us a bit more stability than in the past when we had some tough times in the middle overs, especially against the spin,” the wicketkeeper-batsman said.
“But in this series, you may see a bit of a change, and the batting line-up may be a bit different to what we’re accustomed to seeing, so yeah I think that four is the position where I’ll stay at this point time and hopefully it continues to work for West Indies.”
All three ODIs in the series – on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday – will be played at the Sharjah International Cricket Stadium.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (from): Muhammad Waseem (captain), Aayan Afzal Khan, Adhitya Shetty, Ali Naseer, Ansh Tandon, Vriitya Aravind, Asif Khan, Basil Hameed, Ethan D’Souza, Fahad Nawaz, Jonathan Figy, Junaid Siddique, Lovepreet Singh, Matiullah Khan, Kathink Meiyappan, Mohammed Faraazuddin, Muhammad Juwadullah, Rameez Shahzad, Rohan Mustafa, Sanchit Sharma, Aryansh Sharma, Zahoor Khan.
WEST INDIES (from): Shai Hope (captain), Brandon King (vice captain), Alick Athanaze, Shamarh Brooks, Yannic Cariah, Keacy Carty, Johnson Charles, Roston Chase, Dominic Drakes, Kavem Hodge, Akeem Jordan, Gudakesh Motie, Keemo Paul, Raymon Reifer, Odean Smith.