South Africa will be looking to restore self-belief, when they open their tour of the Caribbean with back-to-back Twenty20 Internationals against West Indies on Wednesday and Thursday at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground here.
Both the South Africans and their hosts will be looking to put behind them the poor performances which saw them go out of the just-concluded Twenty20 World Cup — which was staged over the last three weeks in the Caribbean — at the Super Eight stage.
Proteas captain Graeme Smith held up his hands and admitted that the South Africans had been well below-par and would have to show a vast improvement in the upcoming two matches.
“It was a very disappointing performance, which we put in in the T20 World Cup, and the team has rightly taken a lot of flak,” said Smith.
“We will have to take responsibility for that performance, but we have worked hard over the last few days we have been in Antigua, and basically we want to play well to regain the faith of the public back at home.
“We simply failed to hit our straps during the T20 World Cup, and did not play to the level we have previously.”
‘We have something to regain’
His West Indian counterpart Chris Gayle agreed that the criticism aimed at his side had been mostly justified and that they too owed their fans something better.
“Based on the results, we have something to regain in this series,” said Gayle.
“It is going to be challenging. We are up against a top team, and it is going to be difficult, but we have to try and lift ourselves, and rebound from where we actually faltered in the T20 World Cup.”
Smith said that it was a case of his side regaining their confidence after it took a battering during the World Cup.
“We have got a few new players that have arrived, and some that have gone home from the T20 World Cup,” said Smith.
“I think confidence is a very important thing in this game, and having not played together for a very long time, and we really need to find that confidence again.
“We will be trying a few new things during the T20s and One-day Internationals to be able to examine the structure of our team.”
Gayle said he was looking for his specialist batsmen to produce much better performances.
“Our batting was not up to scratch in the T20 World Cup,” said Gayle.
“We have now had one week’s break, so hopefully the guys will be fresh and ready physically and mentally. Once they are up for the challenge, we can take it from there.
“Playing at home is always a pressure situation, so the guys should be able to cope with this now.
‘They are a tough team to beat’
“It may not be the T20 World Cup, but it is South Africa — and they are a tough team to beat — so we have got to be ready for them.”
South Africa have won three of the four T20Is that the two sides have contested over the last three years. This includes a sensational eight-wicket victory in the first match between them during the T20 World Cup three years ago in Johannesburg, where the South Africans successfully chased a victory target of 206, following a first-ever T20I hundred from Gayle.
Scattered showers are forecast, but it will be the on-field conditions at the VRCG, which will hold the centre of attraction.
The ground, which is named after Vivian Richards, the former West Indies captain and national hero, was cleared to host international matches again, following a one-year suspension.
Constructed by the Chinese Government prior to the island hosting matches in the 2007 World Cup, the VRCG was blacklisted last year, when a Test between West Indies and England was abandoned after just 10 balls because of an unfit outfield.
“It is good that Antigua has gotten back its status to be able to stage international cricket,” said Gayle.
“Hopefully, everything is settled now, and we will be looking to make a confident start to the series.” — AFP