Can Zim make West Indies pay?

HARARE - The West Indies seemingly took a cue from the likes of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka when they decided to rest captain Darren Sammy as well as former captain and controversial former captain Chris Gayle for the upcoming One-Day International series against Zimbabwe which gets underway on Friday.

 This is not the first time that countries have rested key players when playing against Zimbabwe.

 Sri Lanka and India rested a number of their senior players when they toured Zimbabwe back in 2010, saying that the demands of the game were too much for the players, and that the younger players needed to get international exposure.

 India were firmly on the receiving end of this experiment as they were soundly beaten in the Micromax triangular series.

 In fact, they were so badly beaten, that they didn't even make it to the final, much to the annoyance of the millions of loyal Indian supporters and media who covered the series.

 Pakistan also left out key players of their tour back in 2011, but, they came through their experiment unscathed as they were fortunate enough to have two quality spinners who dictated terms throughout their tour of Zimbabwe.

 But, the biggest laughing stock was undoubtedly South Africa who left out four of their most senior and valuable players, when they played Bangladesh and hosts Zimbabwe in the Pran RFL triangular series in June last year.

 Unofficial or not, the Proteas’ laid back attitude saw them humiliated and outplayed by their so-called baby brothers, and, although the coaching staff emphatically  deny the importance of the tour, they would still have felt the pain of losing to Zimbabwe when they went home limping.

 Now, the West Indies have decided to adopt the same attitude by leaving out to vastly-experienced and influential players.

 Both Sammy and Gayle are heavily relied upon for a number of reasons.

 Not only are they crowd pulling, match winning players, but the amount of cricket played between the two of them certainly goes a long way towards calming the rest of the team.

 Although quiet, Gayle is a pillar of strength, both physically as well as emotionally.

 His presence in any team makes players reach deep inside themselves and strengthens their self-belief.

 Darren Sammy's presence in a team is equally important. You may argue the fact that his record as captain may not be up the usual high standards set by the West Indies, but, to be honest, when was the last time a West Indian captain could hold his head high as captain?

 Probably back in the mid-1990s when Richie Richardson captained what was then a formidable team.

 The West Indies also need to be mindful of the fact that they went down 5-0 to Australia. And although the difference between playing Australia and Zimbabwe is huge, the home side would be foolish to take Zimbabwe lightly.

 50-over cricket is an area that the West Indies have struggled in of late, and Zimbabwe will be well aware of that and will hope to seize the initiative.

 Dwayne Bravo is no stranger to the captaincy. However, he captained the team at both ODI and Test level a few years ago. And, given the fact that he will have a senior statesman in Ramnaresh Sarwan, he will probably feel that he will have enough to deal with a team which hasn't played international cricket for close to a year. - Dean du Plessis

*Dean du Plessis, who was born blind, is a leading Zimbabwean cricket writer and broadcaster who writes regularly for the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday.

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