West Indies are honoured to be part of Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell series but their skipper Darren Sammy said their focus would be on the entire Indian cricket team and not only on the legendary batsman’s wicket during the two-match Test series beginning in Kolkata on Wednesday.
“We’re honoured to play a series in India which will bring curtains down on Sachin’s career but we’re here to compete and play very hard cricket,” Sammy told reporters at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“He’s a great ambassador for the sport. He deserves all the hype and the praises he’s getting,” the skipper added.
Despite all the frenzy that has been created around Tendulkar’s last two Tests,Sammy said his team was trying to “block out” all the distractions.
“For us,we will just look to block it out. At the end of the day,we’re here to play cricket. Whatever happens in the media or the opponent’s dressing room,it’s about us doing what we know we have to do very well and go out there and compete for five days of exciting cricket. Hope it will be,” he said.
On the hype surrounding the retirement of Tendulkar,Sammy said the batting maestro had earned the respect for himself.
“That’s India you know. As for Sachin,everybody knows what he’s done for cricket not only in India but all over.”
Indian batsmen have been in blistering form and the West Indies skipper feels that the two-Test series will pose a tough challenge for his bowlers.
“We have respect for India. When you look at their recent one-day series (against Australia that India won 3-2) their batsmen have been in good nick. No one wicket is the prized wicket. Everybody in the top six minus Vijay has been playing really good and has been in good form. It would be a tough battle for our bowlers,” said Sammy.
Sammy,however,said he was hoping that the Indian batsmen commit mistakes.
“They have been playing a lot of one-day cricket. They have been on the go. It was a run-fest in the last one-day series. So hopefully their batsmen will come out playing a lot of shots and we will get some edges down at slip or some lbws or some bowled outs.
“Hopefully they will be in that same frame of mind and make more mistakes early up in their innings,” Sammy said on the eve of the their opening Test,” Sammy added.
Recollecting Ravichandran Ashwin’s valiant 103 to draw in the Mumbai Test,Sammy said all the 20 wickets are important,
“Last time we were bowling against the likes of (Virender) Sehwag,(Gautam) Gambhir,(VVS) Laxman,(Rahul) Dravid,Sachin (Tendulkar) and (MS) Dhoni. And we bowled them out three times with four bowlers. We are going to be confident and look to execute our plans and look to get 20 important wickets,” he said.
Hinting at a two-spin attack in offspinner Shane Shillingford and left-arm orthodox Veerasammy Permaul,the skipper said the pitch would have long cracks from fourth day onwards.
“Looking at it already looks like a fourth-day pitch from the cracks I have seen there. Two spinners and two out-and-out fast bowlers and an allrounder probably would be the way to go. You need two spinners in India. Last time we played a combination of six batsmen and two out-and-out fast bowlers with myself and Bishoo. Probably we will look at differently this time and come out with a right combination,” he said.
The Windies were beaten 0-2 in a three-Test series last time but Sammy said the team was more matured now as they have come here with a six-match unbeaten run.
“After the series in India we went on to win six matches in a row. We’ve come back with much more experience. Our young batsmen have gained some experience. We’re in a better frame of mind. We’re playing much better. We have come here with good frame of mind,” the captain insisted.
Pace bowler Kemar Roach and frontline spinner Shane Shillingford missed out the three-day warm-up match because of shoulder injuries but Sammy said the duo is fit for selection.
Sunil Narine was ignored despite his fine performance in the subcontinent during the Indian Premier League and Sammy said the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) wants to get him ready for the Test grind.
“He has been been playing a lot of cricket for us. Shane Shillingford in the last two Test matches got 19 wickets. He is bowling really well. In Test cricket we need somebody who could bowl overs and be patient. As the selectors said,we can’t burn out everybody.
“Young Permaul with the ‘A’ team did really well. So a left-arm spinner and an off spinner in Shillingford is equally capable,” said Sammy.