Canberra: Captain Darren Sammy says he expects the West Indies and Australia to pick up from where they left off in the Caribbean last year, when they played to a thrilling 2-2 tie in a similar five-match one-day series. "It will be competitive out here, that's for sure. I see it as a continuation of what happened in the Caribbean - over there in the limited over format it was a 2-2 draw," he said here Sunday.
"We've got five ODIs here so we want to play hard and competitive cricket. It's always a challenge to play Australia anywhere in the world, but even more so in their own backyard. We believe we can come here and if we can execute our plans and play to our strengths, we can be successful."
Last March, the West Indies roared back from a heavy loss in the first game of the tripleheader in Kingstown, to win the second encounter before playing to a spectacular tie in the third match. The hosts won the fourth contest in St. Lucia to take a 2-1 lead in the series but then squandered a chance of a rare series win over Australia by losing the final game. Australia showed signs of weakness in their recent ODI series against Sri Lanka when they fell behind 1-2 in the five-match series before coming back to earn a 2-2 verdict.
Sammy said, however, he would be taking no comfort from that below par performance, as the Aussies had proven themselves to be tough opponents over the years. "We have a lot of respect for Australia, you can never count Australia out. They're professionals and know how to dig themselves out of a hole," he warned. "We won't watch the results of the Sri Lanka series, but we'll look at some areas to implement in our game. I expect it to be a hard-fought battle and we're looking to play it very hard."
The West Indies face a Ricky Ponting-led Prime Minister's XI Tuesday in the only warm-up fixture before the series bowls off in Perth Friday. Sammy said the West Indies would be taking the game seriously as it would be the perfect opportunity to set the right tone for the series. "As an individual and as a team we have just got to get the basics right and execute if you want to win," he pointed out.
"This is the only practice match we have before we start against Australia in Perth later this week, so this is a chance to hit the ground running. The guys have been playing a lot of cricket back home and hopefully we can get this series off to a great start here."
He predicted that talismanic opener Chris Gayle will return to form during the upcoming five-match one-day series against Australia. Gayle struggled in the recent Australia Big Bash League for Sydney Thunder, managing just 137 runs from seven innings as his side finished the preliminary round winless. However, the left-hander blasted scores of 85 and 122 not out in his only two outings in the just concluded Caribbean Twenty20, and Sammy said Sunday he was expecting great things from the prolific batsman as the West Indies prepared to take on the Prime Minister's XI in Tuesday's warm-up fixture at Manuka Oval.
"I remember Chris Gayle hitting the ball all over the park," Sammy said, recalling the last time Gayle lined up against the PM's XI two years ago at the same venue. "We played well that day and entertained the crowd. It's a good fixture whenever we tour here and it's good to play the Prime Minister's match to start our tour. I'm expecting Chris to have a good tour on a whole and I also expect the team to play well in these conditions."
Then, Gayle lashed 146 from 89 balls as the West Indies piled up 399 for five off 45 overs. Last week, he set the St Lucia leg of the CT20 alight with a brutal exhibition of power-hitting, form Sammy said was encouraging ahead of the Aussie showdown. "When he came back home he looked really good and I think he almost had the most runs in the Caribbean T20 tournament after just a couple of games," Sammy explained. "We all know what he's capable of, but the strength for us is the way the team has performed together. We are getting stronger as a unit."
The West Indies will open the series with a doubleheader in Perth next weekend.