First Windies, England Test at Kensington Oval

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England captain Joe Root and West Indies captain Jason Holder pose with the series trophies at Kensington Oval. (Getty Images)

Windies aim for consistency amidst Pybus controversy

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Underdogs West Indies will hope to shake off the controversy that has overshadowed their buildup and to spring a major surprise when they take on powerhouse England in the opening Test of the Wisden Trophy Series starting here today.

Ever since Englishman Richard Pybus was named as interim head coach earlier this month, his controversial appointment has dominated the headlines and caused friction in the Caribbean fraternity.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) director, Enoch Lewis, slammed the appointment and then sparred publicly with fellow director, Barbadian Conde Riley, over the contentious issue. And last week, CWI said it had referred comments made by Lewis to its ethics committee, further increasing the rancour.

Almost unnoticed in the midst of the mayhem, the Windies have quietly gone about their preparation at a training camp here, and captain Jason Holder said yesterday the Caribbean side would not be distracted by the swirling controversy.

This is the first time I’m working with him (Pybus) in a coaching capacity and it’s been refreshing. He’s copped a lot of criticism off the field but that is something that I really can’t control or get involved in,” Holder told reporters.

“We’ve got a job to do and it’s just about us players supporting him as much as we possibly can. We’ve got our goals in the side as well and it’s just a matter for us to concentrate on that. We can’t concentrate on the peripherals and things that we have no control over.
“Once we do that I’m sure we’ll have a really good series.”

West Indies know that a strong performance over the next few days will immediately change the narrative but it will be finding the consistency to produce such, which has proved challenging for the hosts in recent years.
They are coming off a chastening series in Bangladesh where they were swept 2-0, with neither Test lasting beyond three days. The tour capped off a disappointing year where the Windies managed just three wins in nine Tests.

However, Holder said there was belief within the unit that they could produce positive results through the series.
“I think we’ve got to be consistent – consistency is really something that has plagued us in the past, particularly with our batting,” the all-rounder pointed out.

“I think we just need to start the series well in terms of putting some runs up on the board in the first innings and making an early statement. They’ve obviously got a quality bowling attack and we have seen glimpses of what we can do against this bowling attack as well.
“We had a really good time in Headingley and we really fought back well in that series. And obviously the last time they came here in the Caribbean, we did really well to fight back here in Barbados.

“We definitely know we can perform against this attack, it’s just a matter of being consistent and sticking to our game plans for long periods.”
Despite their wretched overall record in recent years, West Indies have not fared badly against England in the Caribbean. In the last series four years ago, they drew the first Test, got hammered by nine wickets in the second but picked themselves up to win the final match at Kensington Oval by five wickets.

In the five-match series of 2009, West Indies won the first Test and drew the next four to earn a precious series win.
West Indies enter the series at number eight in the ICC Test rankings, well behind their rivals who have climbed to number three, but Holder said his side were looking forward to challenging England.

“The last time we played against England it was a highly competitive Test series, with them starting the series quite well and them fighting back here in Barbados,” he said.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. They obviously have been playing very good cricket so it’s going to be good task.”

SQUADS:
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Shane Dowrich, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican, Shannon Gabriel, Shamarh Brooks, Alzarri Joseph.

ENGLAND – Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Ben Foakes, Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.