West Indies looks to draw inspiration from absent Bravo

Will the Netherlands script the first upset win in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 when it squares up against the West Indies at the Ferozshah Kotla ground here on Monday? This was the question that was uppermost in the minds of the motley bunch of people who turned up at the venue rather than track Sachin Tendulkar’s brilliance in Bangalore.

Clearly, the question surfaced not only because the Dutch put up a courageous batting show against England but also because the West Indies batsmen lost their way in the final 10 overs of their match against South Africa here last week. Yet, it is hard to imagine the West Indies making similar mistakes against a lesser bowling attack.

Of course, the West Indies will have to overcome the loss of more than just its opening match against South Africa. It will have to cope with ace all-rounder Dwayne Bravo’s absence due to the knee injury he suffered during that match. Skipper Darren Sammy admitted his side will have to draw inspiration from Dwyne Bravo’s absence and play with a different mindset hereon.

More than anyone else, the West Indies players know they have to turn up at the park and beat the Netherlands on Monday. In a group from which India, England and South Africa are heavily favoured to make it to the round of eight, the West Indies cannot afford to lose another match before it takes on Bangladesh on its home turf in a critical match in Mirpur on March 4.

The West Indies has had a few days to do some soul-searching and come up with a better show that will set it on course to securing the quarterfinal berth. For one, it can make better use of Kieron Pollard’s batting skills and not just hold him back for the batting powerplay. And, it can also pick the best attack it can rather than be tempted to load the squad with spinners.

Sammy and his men will be well aware that if they have to keep Bangladesh at bay in that game next week, they will have to ensure that they go into the game with the confidence of a victory rather than with the pressure of the proverbial Damocles’ Sword bearing down on them. Their sharp focus will help them secure points against the Netherlands.

And what of the Dutch? Of course, in making 292 for six against England in Nagpur last week, their batsmen showed they can post challenging and competitive totals. The vastly experienced Ryan ten Doeschate who made a century and others like Tom Cooper, Tom de Grooth and skipper Peter Borren who batted sensibly around him all showed good form and approach.

Yet, without an incisive bowler in its ranks, the Netherlands bowling attack will have to lift itself several notches – and hope that the rival batting is sluggish – if it is to stop any of its oppositions. To be sure, on the evidence of their opening game in Nagpur, the Dutch relied on ten Doeschate to play the restrictive role and pick up a couple of wickets too.

Caught up by the mild chatter at the ground, the handful of journalists kept asking one another –more in hope than with any expectation – if there would be an upset on Monday. The answer is simple: The West Indies will have to play way below par for the Netherlands to emulate Kenya who defeated the Calypso cricketers in Pune in the 1996 edition of the World Cup.

And with the side resolving to draw inspiration from Dwayne Bravo’s absence, it is unlikely that the West Indies will make mistakes against the Netherlands just as it is likely that the Dutch will keep looking for their first victory against a Test playing team in the world’s biggest cricket tournament.

(This piece was written for The Telepgraph newspaper)