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Hope a near certainty for T20 opener, says Brathwaite

By CMC

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In-form batsman Shai Hope.

(CMC) – Captain Carlos Brathwaite said Sunday in-form Shai Hope will play in Monday’s opening Twenty20 International, even if he has to be “stretchered” on and off the field, underscoring the importance West Indies have placed on winning the three-match series and salvaging something from an otherwise wretched tour.

The 25-year-old Hope was struck on the helmet at the start of the 50th over of the West Indies innings during last Friday’s decisive third One-Day International, when he finished unbeaten on 108.

He was kept under observation after experiencing some dizziness and did not take the field during the Bangladesh run chase.

Hope hit a superb unbeaten 146 in Windies’ series-levelling four-wicket win in Dhaka last Tuesday, and is seen as key to the Caribbean side’s success in the upcoming series.

“Shai is in beautiful batting form, fresh off two back-to-back unbeaten centuries,” Brathwaite said.

“Even if Shai has to play with a stretcher, I will volunteer to carry the stretcher between the wickets. He is fine and in good spirits. He is out practising, so hopefully he is close to 100 per cent. As long as he is alive, he will play tomorrow.”

Much will be riding on the series for the Windies. They were crushed in both Tests inside three days in Chittagong and Dhaka, and also went down 2-1 in the just-concluded series.

The T20 series represents the Windies’ last chance to end an otherwise difficult year on a bright note.

West Indies are without several world-rated short format specialists, with the likes of Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard and Chris Gayle, all sidelined for varying reasons.

However, Brathwaite said regardless of personnel, the Windies needed to devise a strategy to combat the “chopping and changing” in order to win matches.

“The group of players needs to find a way to win, regardless of who is and who is not selected. When we start to win, we can pull on experiences on learning how to win games,” he contended.

“Evidently you become more experienced and confident, and start creating your own brand of cricket. We haven’t been able to, because of a lot of chopping and changing for different reasons.

“The feeling in the dressing room is that whenever a team is picked for a tour, we put our heads together as a unit and find a way to win games. Once we do that, West Indies cricket will find a way to the top, whichever format.”

Looking to the recent past will inspire little hope for the Windies. This year, they have lost all four T20 series they have played, winning a single match and losing nine.

And their squad, while talented, is a young one with the likes of Shimron Hetmyer, Oshane Thomas, Fabien Allen and Nicholas Pooran, in the touring party.

The importance of giving their supporters something to smile about, especially just over a week away from Christmas, was not lost on Brathwaite.

“The people back home deserve a Christmas gift. We hope to close out the year with a win,” the all-rounder said.

“We still think T20 is our premier format. We obviously haven’t had the results to be in the recent past proud of. But here’s a chance to turn things around and ending 2018 in a good way.”

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