The three captains, Dwayne Bravo, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Angelo Mathews, were quite philosophical about the grind and demands of international cricket. While admitting it is tough, they chose to look at the positives. Bravo noted that even as professional international players, it is still the love of playing cricket and facing tough competition that keeps them motivated. He is also keen on using this opportunity to make amends for West Indies’ early Champions Trophy exit. “I was disappointed with how the Champions Trophy ended for myself and rest of the West Indies team,” said Bravo on Thursday (June 27). “Looking forward to leading the team in this prestigious competition and making the people of Caribbean proud.”
Sri Lanka have been finalists in several major tournaments in the last few years, including the CB Series, the World Twenty20, the World Cup, and the Champions Trophy, but have not been able to close the deal, and that is something they would love to achieve here. “Yes, the amount of cricket the guys play is unbelievable,” said Mathews. “But we need to keep going and keep ourselves motivated to perform consistently. We have done pretty well but not enough to win a tournament.”
Dhoni shed light on ground realities of what is expected of the Indian cricket team. “The demands and expectations on the Indian cricket team have always been the same. It doesn’t matter whether we won the last series or lost, or what has happened on the field, the expectations are always the same. If [at all] the expectation levels are [changing], it is moving in one direction: up.”
Dhoni is a shrewd leader and has the kind of record most captains would give an arm and a leg for, while Bravo and Mathews, accomplished players themselves, are just beginning to cut their teeth as international captains and have their predecessors playing under them as well. “Darren Sammy and I have played a lot of cricket together and have a lot of respect for each other,” said Bravo. “I am always open to advice from anyone, be it Chris Gayle or Sammy. I’m happy to feed off of the advice and the team is only going to benefit from that.”
Mathews was also glad that he had seniors like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in the side to seek out.
Sri Lanka have been forced to make a change to the squad due to a calf injury to Tillakaratne Dilshan, and West Indies will be happy to have Denesh Ramdin back behind the stumps, after serving a two-match ban, despite surprisingly nifty glovework by Johnson Charles.
Though India played the same XI for all the matches in the Champions Trophy, Dhoni was non-committal on sticking with the same winning combination, saying: “It depends on the conditions, whether there are going to be rain interruptions, and whether everyone has pulled through alright health-wise.”
Dhoni felt that he was fortunate to have players in the side who could soak up the pressure and perform when it is needed most. In typical Dhoni style, he understated his influence as captain on the side’s psyche and the kind of dressing room atmosphere he has engendered. “I’m doing my part but it’s the individual’s performance that matters. We have enjoyed each other’s success. If I’m happier than the guy who scored a century or a 50, that’s the kind of dressing room atmosphere we want… [The guys on the bench] wait for their chance but don’t think that if someone does badly, then I’ll get a chance. But the thinking is to use this period on the bench to improve and when the chance comes – due to fitness or form – earn that place in the side. We have been able to create that kind of atmosphere and it is reflected in the kind of performances we have got from the players.”
Sri Lanka go into this tournament as “underdogs” since they are facing the “reigning world champions in T20 and ODIs”, but Mathews feels he has “got the team to do well here”. If they do play to their capabilities, and weather does not play spoilsport, this tournament promises to be a humdinger.
(Story courtesy Wisden India)