KOLKATA, India – Darren Sammy said West Indies will enter the two-Test series against India with the same positive mindset which has helped them to win their last six straight Tests.
The West Indies captain said playing India, particularly on their home soil, was a much tougher proposition than playing New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe – but he felt his side was more than capable of rising to the challenge.
The two sides meet in the first Test, starting on Wednesday at the historic Eden Gardens in this eastern Indian city.
“Looking at the tour match, the batsmen spent time in the middle which was very crucial for us in India because we all know that we have to put runs on the board when playing here – and our bowlers got a good work-out,” Sammy told WICB Media. “We have been practising hard and everyone looks ready and eager to start this series against India.
“This will be a real test for us. We have played against the opposition that has been placed before us and so India will pose a stronger challenge. But we have to go out there with the same attitude and mentality to win the two Test matches. We are in a good frame of mind and the week that we spent together in [the United States] before coming here has helped.
He added: “Many people may feel that we should have been hitting cricket balls, but the mental side of the game is very important, and that team bonding and working on our mental toughness, I think will pay off for us and I want to thank the West Indies Cricket Board for coming up with it.
“The guys really enjoyed each other’s company and we became closer as a unit, so hopefully, we can take that onto the field – the mental toughness – together with our cricket skills and have two good Test matches here.”
Sammy said it will take time to judge the effectiveness of the team bonding session in the United States, but he has felt a different vibe in the team ever since.
“As a captain, what I see are players that are more relaxed and everybody going through their daily routine with little pressure,” he said. “Even speaking to the coach and the rest of the management team, they have noticed a change. The players are just doing what’s required of them. Obviously, we will have to wait and see how that is transferred into the way we play.”
West Indies have not won a Test series against a side rated higher on the International Cricket Council’s Test Ranking system for four years and the last time they won a Test against a higher ranked side was when they beat Pakistan two years ago in Guyana.
Sammy said this was something he would like to put to rest in India – but he was well aware that West Indies have not won on the sub-continent, since Courtney Walsh’s side prevailed over Mohammad Azharuddin’s side by 243 runs almost two decades ago at the PCA Stadium in Mohali.
“Success is about winning,” he said. “We have not won a Test in India for a long time, but we drew a Test in Mumbai on our last visit, which was the first time in a long time that we had drawn a Test here.
“We are looking to go one step further and we believe that once we play to our full potential – with the experience we have now on this trip – we can win. We have far more experienced batting than when last visited two years ago and Shivnarine Chanderpaul was our only experienced batsman.”
He continued: “Now we have Shiv, Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels. Two players that were young then, Darren Bravo and Kieran Powell, have matured. Narsingh Deonarine and Kirk Edwards were part of the A-Team that visited recently and did well, so we have more experience in the batting.
“Shane Shillinford, our main spinner, has taken 20 wickets in his last two Tests and conditions will favour him, as well as Veerasammy Permaul, together with our fast bowlers and me, I believe we can get 20 wickets to win a Test.”
Sammy felt however, the key to victory will be how West Indies combat India’s bevy of spin bowlers.
“Looking at the way teams like Australia and England have played in previous series here, spin played a major factor,” he said.
“We have not played the spin bowling well in our last few Tests, but once we can counteract their spin bowlers and put runs on the board – a good first innings total is always important in a Test – over 400 – and then we have to bowl well to restrict them and get a lead of over 100.
“It will require a total team effort and all three disciplines of the game must click for us. We know over the years we have played really well and put ourselves in good positions, only to lose the Test match due to one bad session of play.
“We cannot afford that in this series. We have to be on our Ps and Qs, and go hard at the Indians because we know they will come hard at us.”
Sammy said it was good to be playing Test matches again, following a heavy diet of One-day and Twenty20 matches over the last seven months.
West Indies’ previous Test against Zimbabwe finished on March 22 this year at Windsor Park in Roseau – and they won by an innings and 65 runs.
“These Tests and the remainder against New Zealand are very important, especially for players like Shiv, Shane, Kirk and others that only play Tests,” he said.
“It is also another opportunity for us to further work on the goals we have. We broke into the top five earlier this year and this is another chance for us to move a little higher in the rankings.”
He said: “It’s also going to be exciting because it’s the farewell series for [Indian batting legend] Sachin Tendulkar, but we are planning to take it very, very seriously, and look to give a good account of ourselves to win these two Tests.”
“India and West Indies have always had a good relationship and good battles. Indian people support their team first and West Indies are their second favourite. They have seen our guys playing in the Indian Premier League and fallen in love with them.”
Sammy said the farewell for Tendulkar has energised the bowling unit with everyone seeking to have the privilege of being the bowler to snare him for the last time in Tests – but he would not predict who he felt it would be.
“All I know is that I will be part of that wicket,” he said.
INDIA (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav
WEST INDIES (from): Darren Sammy (captain), Tino Best, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Sheldon Cottrell, Narsingh Deonarine, Kirk Edwards, Chris Gayle, Veersammy Permaul, Kieron Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Shane Shillingford, Chadwick Walton