- Afghanistan coach Simmons: "I am not putting the 'favourites' tag on me. We have just come here to play cricket, we need to play proper cricket and win this tournament"
- UAE coach Brown: "It is going to be one hell of a ride in this tournament. Teams are going to be flying by the seat of their pants for a lot of it"
The Windies coach Stuart Law has said his side will have to be smarter in approach in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, which will produce two sides that will complete the 10-team line-up for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 to be played in England and Wales from 30 May to 14 July.
"It is not going to be making 300 plus and then bowling teams out. It is going to be working out how to get to 180 to 220 and then deciding how to get the 10 wickets. To be honest, the wickets (in the warm-up matches) weren’t as conducive as we want to play and so just have to come up with different ways to go about it.
"We do target 300-plus as we found in New Zealand, that’s probably a benchmark score these days in One-Day Internationals. Here, we have to lower that target just to make sure we are safe to play better cricket or make better decisions out in the middle and get the job done,” said Law in Harare on Friday
The Windies, along with Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe, had missed out on automatic qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 by finishing outside the top eight on the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings at the 30 September 2017 cut-off date. The four sides have been joined by Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Nepal, Scotland, Papua New Guinea and the United Arab Emirates.
The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier begins on Sunday, 4 March, and the Windies will play their opening match against the United Arab Emirates, the side which nearly beat them in the second warm-up match on Thursday.
"The strength of lot of Associate teams is based around spin and the quicks they have seem to be pretty reasonable as well. We can’t just go out and blast and dominate against these attacks. We have to be a little smarter to go about it.
"Our bowlers have been consistently taking wickets upfront and we have a good mix of off-spin, left-arm spin and leg-spin. I think it is a well-balanced attack that we take into each game.
"Our quicks are a bit more capable of getting the ball up at high speed, which the Associates don’t probably get to see a lot of and this is something that we can use to our advantage. As the event will progress, the wickets will spin more and we have quality spinners as well.”
Law, who played one Test and 54 ODIs for Australia from 1994 to 1999, valued the presence of stalwarts like Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Nikita Miller in the side saying it was up to the youngsters to observe and learn from these players.
"You can't buy experience on a shelf. You need guys in these tough conditions to stand up as well and guide the youngsters through the difficult periods. Then it is just up to the younger or less experienced players to listen, heed the advice and carry forward into their game.”
Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons, who played in 26 Tests and 143 ODIs for the Windies from 1987 to 1999, shrugged off the ‘favourites’ tag, when he said: “I am not putting the ‘favourites’ tag on me. We have just come here to play cricket, we need to play proper cricket and win this tournament.
"I am one of those who wants to win all the time, and I think these guys are the same. So, the more we will win, the easier it will get for us in the Super Six stage. You win the Super Six stage, you are in the World Cup as well as in the final. That’s how we look at it.”
Afghanistan will take on Scotland in their opening match at the Bulawayo Athletic Club on Sunday, 4 March, and Simmons admitted he was not fully satisfied with his side’s performance in the warm-up matches.
"We haven’t done a lot of things we wanted to do in the warm-up matches. But, at the same time, the boys have been sharp in Sharjah and I am sure the sharpness is still there, maybe a bit of jet-lag but we will get there. Hopefully, we will be able to put everything together come Sunday.
"All of us are looking forward to the tournament. It’s good that it is being held in high esteem, but you have to come out and do it. We had two good outings in the warm-up games and now it’s about business. So, we are looking forward to Sunday.”
The UAE coach Dougie Brown, who played 25 ODIs and two T20Is for England from 1997 to 2007, refused to predict the finalists, saying the warm-ups have shown that any team can beat any team.
"It is going to be one hell of a ride in this tournament. Teams are going to be flying by the seat of their pants for a lot of it. There is going to be some weather around and that is going to affect teams and the decision-making that people make because pressure does funny things to you. We try to take pressure off but to give you the two teams to qualify for the World Cup, I couldn’t because it is that close.”
The UAE will face PNG on Sunday 4 March at the Harare Sports Club and will then take on the Windies at the Old Hararians on Tuesday, 6 March.
Brown said his side’s first priority will be to retain the ODI status. “Obviously, we come here as a lower-ranked side and it would be wrong of us to just say that we are going to qualify for the World Cup. There are four Test nations here, they are probably, and quite rightly, thinking they have World Cup qualification very much in their hands.
"But for us, retaining the ODI status is very important. In order to do that, we have to qualify for the Super Six. That said, there is a little bit of dream and all of us believe we might qualify for the World Cup.
"Obviously at this stage, a lot of cricket has to be played and we have to play exceptionally well, but we have seen so far in the warm-up games, everybody can beat everybody in this tournament and all we need to do is to get on the right side of good fortune, make sure the players are playing well, which they are, have the confidence and maybe create a little bit of momentum and who knows?
"But, retaining the ODI status is very much forefront of the thought, but who’s to say we can’t qualify for the World Cup.”
Sunday's fixtures (matches start 09h30 local time, matches featuring the Netherlands and Nepal will be classified as non-ODIs as the two sides don’t have ODI status coming into this tournament):
- Ireland v Netherlands, Old Hararains (Group A)
- PNG v UAE, Harare Sports Club (Group A)
- Zimbabwe v Nepal, Queens Sports Club (Group B)
- Afghanistan v Scotland, Bulawayo Athletic Club (Group B)