World T20-winning Windies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite has stressed that winning the Cricket World Cup Qualifier is all that matters to him and his team despite the fact they’d rather not be playing it at all.
Asked what he was looking forward to about the tournament, which will decide the two final teams to make the 2019 World Cup in England, the 29-year-old seamer and big-hitter said: “To win the trophy. With all due respect to the competition, we didn’t want to be here. We wanted the direct passage to the World Cup.
“Be that as it may, we are here, and we have to play these games, play them well, and be at our best throughout the competition. And be there and lift the trophy at the end of the competition, and ease a few fears back home of possibly missing out on the World Cup. That will be a job well done in my eyes.”
West Indies failed to qualify automatically for the flagship 50-over tournament next year due to their ninth placed ICC team ranking in ODIs. Only the top eight teams have secured their places, with Windies, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Nepal, UAE, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea fighting it out for the final two spots at this month’s Qualifier.
Brathwaite – who has fond memories of ICC tournaments having blasted the Windies to glory in the last over of the 2016 World T20 final against Ben Stokes – admitted his side are favourites in Zimbabwe but said they would not be underestimating any opponent.
“We probably have a target on our backs, and teams will really be game when it comes to playing against us,” he said. “We need to firstly not underestimate any team – I don’t think we will – and then secondly, we need to do as well we can, perform day in and day out. At the end of the two weeks or so, let’s be raising the cup as champions of the World Cup Qualifier.
“I will concede that we’re probably the better team on paper, the team with most history. But cricket is played on the day. Each and every day we step on the park, we need to act as though we are the best team on paper, act like the best team in the competition. And then have the results to show for it.”
As one of the team’s big names, Brathwaite will be expected to perform on the big stage. “I don’t know how much pressure is on me externally,” he said, “but I always put pressure on myself to do as well as I can. At the end of this World Cup Qualifier, I want to be able to look in the mirror and say that I’ve been put everything in. The team qualifying is the ultimate goal.”