Historic T-20s open in Florida
FORT LAUDERDALE – The West Indies take on New Zealand at 2 p.m. today in the first of two back-to-back Twenty20 matches at an unusual venue – the Central Broward Regional Park in Florida, United States.
In a bid to halt flagging fortunes and to validate the tremendous potential of the internationally-sought-after players in the team, the Windies will be looking to win these two matches in front of an expected sold-out crowd of Caribbean-biased fans.
Among that crowd will be a number of former West Indies greats, as evidenced by the presence on American Airlines’ Thursday morning flight from Barbados of the likes of bowling giants Sir Wesley Hall and Joel Garner, along with Vasbert Drakes, Tony Howard and Henderson Springer.
The returning Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith and Sunil Narine, who have excelled in the same format on the subcontinent, will be familiar with the hot, steamy conditions at the ground. The small boundaries also justified the posted notices warning Danger: Flying Balls In Area.
There was a hive of activity yesterday as workers installed banners and various pieces of equipment and the sprinkling of spectators constantly scampered as Gayle, Smith, Darren Sammy and Lendl Simmons set the tempo with nonchalant sixes clearing the boundaries on a field that is about the size of the National Stadium in Barbados.
The facility is similar to the Stadium, with stands on one side but no wall on the other side of the ground, which is said to be ready for its maximum of 16 000 spectators.
Of great interest to everyone will be the pitch, which carried a reflective sheen similar to the Sabina Park pitch in Jamaica in the past. In 2010, New Zealand met Sri Lanka at the same ground with little spectator interest in a low-scoring encounter.
With the pitch likely to be on the slow side once again, West Indies assistant coach Toby Radford feels the conditions could be exploited by medium pace bowlers Sammy and Bravo.
“I think [Sammy] would like bowling on it. The surface as it is, we believe it will grip a little bit, turn a little bit . . . . Bravo, he’s got a lot of clever little slower balls. So I think the Sammys, the Bravos could do a very good job on there. But I also think that it will spin so someone like Sunil Narine, who’s a world-class spinner, should enjoy bowling on it,” Radford said.
Meanwhile, off-spinner Narine said he believed the Windies possessed the ability to win the two-match series.
“We have some good players in our team who have done well in this format in various parts of the world, and if we play up to our potential we can make it very difficult for New Zealand. We are keeping focused on the job that’s required,” Narine said.
WEST INDIES (from): Darren Sammy (captain), Samuel Badree, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith.
NEW ZEALAND (from): Ross Taylor (captain), Martin Guptill, Doug Bracewell, Dean Brownlie, Andrew Ellis, Daniel Flynn, Ronnie Hira, Tom Latham, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, B.J. Watling, Kane Williamson.