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Hasib
May 15, 2004, 04:51 AM
WEST INDIES UNDER PRESSURE TO CRUSH BANGLADESHIS (1st ODI Preview)
by Fazeer Mohammed


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KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent - Even as they labour in the midst of their lowest period in almost 76 years of international cricket, West Indies find themselves under pressure to win handsomely over minnows Bangladesh, when the second stage of the international season begins with back-to-back One-Day Internationals on Saturday and Sunday here.

After the high profile encounters with England over the previous nine weeks, the three ODIs and two Tests against the recently-arrived visitors are not expected to generate the same level of interest, particularly as Bangladesh have yet to win a Test and can look to only four victories in 85 ODIs.

But for Ramnaresh Sarwan, the series is an opportunity to emphasise that there is no real danger of the Caribbean side sinking lower down the international ladder.

"We know we are above their standards and we want to maintain that," said Sarwan, who gets a second opportunity to lead the regional team this season with regular captain Brian Lara resting his dislocated finger from the weekend action.

"We don't want to give them any chance of building any confidence. We are going to play hard, but won't take them lightly."

Groundsmen men working on the pitch at Arnos Vale, St. Vincent.

Indeed, the comparative records suggest that it should be all one-way traffic for the West Indies unless the unsettled weather in St. Vincent that brought prolonged showers to the island in the past week return.

In seven previous ODIs, West Indies have won five handsomely with the other two ruined by rain including, crucially, last year's World Cup encounter that subsequently proved decisive in consigning the Carl Hooper-led side to elimination at the first round in South Africa.

But as modest as their gains have been, the Bangladeshis, who scraped a three-wicket victory over a Board XI at the same venue on Wednesday in their only warm-up before the series, believe they have it in them to surprise the hordes of skeptics.

INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENT

Performances on recent tours of Australia and Pakistan, along with an ODI victory over a full-strength Zimbabwe team two months ago suggest at incremental improvements under the stewardship of coach Dav Whatmore.

"We expect to play well, we've been improving day by day," said Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar, who also emphasised that the shorter version of the game represents the better chance to pull off a major upset in the Caribbean.

"At the moment, we are playing ODI cricket better than the Test match, but our team is a new team, with a lot of young boys on the way up."

Bashar has played all off his team's 28 matches, since they were granted Test status, somewhat controversially, three years ago. The constant sniping on the international circuit that his team is not worthy of such elevation is particularly hurtful to the 31-year-old batsman.

"We feel bad about it actually," he admitted. "We keep hearing this from the other Test sides. But we are proving people wrong in the last few matches, so we are again hoping to do a lot better."

Yet for all of his and the team's optimism and the impressive credentials of Whatmore, who guided Sri Lanka to World Cup success eight years ago, West Indies should be far too strong for Bangladesh whatever combination they put out on the Arnos Vale Playing Field, where they have been virtually invincible despite the slump of recent years.

On a pitch expected to get slower and lower over the two days, the home selectors may opt for one of the two tearaway pacers - Tino Best and Fidel Edwards - and ensure that the batting goes deep enough to make the most of scoring opportunities against the Bangladesh bowling attack that has consistently performed much better than their batsmen.

Having been left out to make way for Lara's return after the opening ODI against England in Guyana, Sylvester Joseph is expected to return to the middle-order.

As heavily as they are favoured for the series, West Indies can ill afford to take their opponents lightly, however, modest their credentials.

The loss to England in the final ODI in Barbados 10 days earlier means the Caribbean side has still won just one limited-over series - against New Zealand in 2002 - at home over the last six years.

It may be just above the duel for the wooden spoon, but the onus is on the West Indies to ensure that defeat to Bangladesh remains among the realms of the unthinkable and fanciful.

SQUADS:

West Indies (from): Ramnaresh Sarwan (captain), Tino Best, Ian Bradshaw, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Ridley Jacobs, Sylvester Joseph, Ricardo Powell, Ravi Rampaul, Devon Smith, Dwayne Smith.

Bangladesh (from): Habibul Bashar (captain), Mohammad Ashraful, Tareq Aziz, Tapash Baisya, Faisal Hossain, Shahariar Hossain, Manjural Islam, Alok Kapali, Khaled Mahmud, Khaled Mashud, Mohammad Rafique, Mushfiqur Rahman, Abdur Razzak, Rajin Saleh, Hannan Sarkar.

Umpires: David Shepherd, Eddie Nicholls, TV Replays: Billy Doctrove,

Reserve: Goaland Greaves.

MATCH REFEREE: Roshan Mahanama.

Source- West Indies Cricket Board (http://www.windiescricket.com/Article.asp?id=203334)

[Edited on 15-5-2004 by pompous : Hasib: you know the rules: stop posting in Caps dude :)]