Cricket: Bravo's confidence is justified in shortest form of game

By David Leggat

Dwayne Bravo. Photo / NZPA
Dwayne Bravo. Photo / NZPA

Time was when the West Indies ruled both the long and short-form cricket world.

For nigh on 20 years they were the overpowering force in test cricket, where champions like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose swept all aside.

In 1975 and 1979 the West Indies won the first two 50-over World Cups in England and should have completed the hat trick in 1983, but for getting cocky chasing a smallish Indian target, then losing the master Richards to a terrific running outfield catch by Indian hero Kapil Dev.

And in the short game after that? Not much.

There was an unexpected Champions Trophy win in England, against the hosts in 2004. At 147 for eight requiring 218, they seemed dead. However unlikely heroes in Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw put on an unbroken 71 to get them over the line against shellshocked hosts.

When T20 arrived in 2005, it was a step into uncharted, shallower waters.

The Windies tied their first T20 match, at Eden Park in 2006 - the game ending in a hilarious bowl-off, finally won by New Zealand, where it took an age for any bowler to hit the unguarded stumps. The only survivors from that game are wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin and captain Dwayne Bravo.

The teams tied again at Pallekele during the 2012 World T20, when Doug Bracewell was run out off the final ball, and the Windies won the one-over eliminator, before going on to clinch the title.

Two of their most effective bowlers then were spinners Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree, both in the squad for the two games to end their New Zealand tour.

The team which won that final are all still available, although four - Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy - are carrying injuries.

Coming off a morale-boosting, and ODI series-levelling, win at Seddon Park on Wednesday, they are coming into a form of the game which seems to suit them, so you can understand Bravo's confidence going to Eden Park.

"Our group is settled," the Trinidad allrounder said.

"There won't be much change from the team that won the last World Cup. It will be 95 per cent the same team."

Of those who weren't in Sri Lanka two years ago, opener Kieran Powell and seamer Jason Holder would seem the likeliest to push a strong case.

Lefthander Powell had had a lean tour until Wednesday, when his blazing 74 set up the tourists' alltime highest ODI total. Replicate that in the next two games and he'll have put up an unarguable case for inclusion.

Holder, the young Barbados bowler, has impressed in the ODI series. More of the same in the next few days and he, too, could book himself a ticket to Dhaka.

The West Indies lost their last two T20s, to Pakistan, last year. But they had won six on the bounce before that. Overall they've won 23 and lost 24 of their 51 T20s.

Bravo has replaced the injured Sammy, who led the Windies to the 2012 title, as captain for the T20s and he is having a storming tour.

"We still have a long way to go. All I keep stressing is we have the talent but at times we don't play to our true potential," he said.

"We are moving in a direction where we trust and believe in each other, and are enjoying each other's success. 2014 has started pretty decently for us, now we look to improve and stay tight as a team and everything is going to fall into place."

The days of test dominance on an unprecedented scale may have gone, but there are other, shorter challenges. The West Indies showed on Wednesday that when the force is with them they can match the best.

New Zealand, hurting after the Seddon Park pummelling, need to pick themselves up smartly.

- NZ Herald

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