Though the dark horse of the ICC World Cup 2019, the big question is whether the Windies can mirror their T20 efforts in the 50-over format. Bangladesh are placed above them and only Sri Lanka and new-entrants Afghanistan are behind the superpower of the 1970s and 80s. And it had all started here in England. The first three World Cups, starting 1975, were held here and the West Indies made all three finals, establishing themselves as undisputed kings of cricket. Sadly, the West Indies sides of the past two decades have failed to match the dominant teams of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s in both Test and one-day cricket. But where the Caribbean outfit has failed in the longer forms, they have been a powerhouse in the 20-over game, winning two of the last three T20 World Cups. Jason Holder’s side has the talent in their ranks to go deep in the tournament, but whether they can transfer their winning ways from T20 to 50-over cricket remains to be seen.
Even though the two-time champions had to qualify for the tournament this year and scraped through as the last team after Afghanistan, the Windies could be the team to look out for this time. Their recent performance as a team against England at home and the individual brilliance in the Indian T20 League have changed the way the cricketing world is looking at them now.
West Indies’ preparations suffered a slight setback when they went down to Bangladesh in the Tri-Series final in Ireland, but they can take heart from the fact that they didn’t have a full squad at their disposal. Their official training camp began from May 19th and the four-day camp, involving the entire 15-man squad for the marquee tournament that included an additional unofficial warm-up fixture against Australia played on May 22nd at the Ageas Bowl which Australia won by seven-wickets.
Before the action begins, West Indies play two official warm-up games that give them the opportunity to fine-tune their playing XI. These matches are different in the sense that the teams are free to play all 15 of their squad to experiment with their lineups and test players for fitness issues. Both games are at 03.00pm and will be telecast on Star Sports and streamed live on Hotstar.
Jason Holder (c), Chris Gayle, Kemar Roach, Darren Bravo, Andre Russell, Shai Hope, Sheldon Cottrell, Evin Lewis, Shannon Gabriel, Carlos Brathwaite, Ashley Nurse, Shimron Hetmyer, Fabian Allen, Oshane Thomas, Nicholas Pooran
Winners of the first two World Cups, West Indies are rediscovering their mojo after a long slump. Led by the charismatic Jason Holder, who has brought self-belief back to the team
Strength: Powerful and fearless batsmen like Andre Russel, and lethal fast bowlers, the Windies have all the weapons to win the Cup
Weakness: The biggest problem is temperament. The team crumbles at the very sight of pressure
With the increasing similarity in the way teams approach the two formats of the white-ball game, there seems no reason why West Indies cannot again be a force in 50-over cricket as well. Yet they failed to qualify for the 2017 Champions Trophy ODI tournament in England and only just made it to this World Cup. It is all a far cry from the West Indies’ glory days, when a powerful squad under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd won the first two men’s World Cups, in 1975 and 1979, and lost in the 1983 final to India.
Much would depend on the kind of start they get from Gayle. The Jamaican has been smart of late, putting a price on his wicket. He will be crucial to the West Indies’ plans. If he fails, Russell, Darren Bravo and Hetmyer have to ensure that the middle-order makes up for it. Nothing could be better if he clicks. The longer he stays at the crease, the better it is for them.
Jason Holder and Kemar Roach hold the key while challenging the best batsmen. Russell’s medium pace will also be handy if there are overcast conditions. Left-arm pacer Sheldon Cottrell is yet to leave an impressionable mark in international cricket.
Yet, they would largely bank on their pacers since Ashley Nurse is the only experienced spinner in their ranks. Left-arm spinner Fabian Allen has played only seven matches, taking just one wicket so far. Mystery spinner Sunil Narine and allrounder Kieron Pollard were overlooked, but Pollard and Dwayne Bravo – who hasn’t played an ODI since 2014 – have been added to a 10-man reserve players list for the tournament.
Don’t be surprised if Chris Gayle puts on one last show. The 39-year-old has declared he will retire from one-day internationals after the World Cup and as is his way, he’ll be looking to go out with a bang. The veteran left-hander owns 25 ODI hundreds and is a good chance to add to that tally on the small grounds in the UK, where he averages 39 in 30 matches.
WINDIES AT THE WORLD CUP
West Indies have won the World Cup twice – in 1975 and 1979. In 1983, they ended as the runners-up after losing to India. They made an exit from the group stage on four occasions – in 1987, 1992, 1999 and 2003. Windies reached the quarters stage twice – in 2011 and 2015. They reached the Super Eight in 2007 and semis in 1996.
Played – 74 | Won – 42 | Lost – 30 | Tied/No Result – 2 | Win percentage – 58.57%
1975 – champions 1979 – champions 1983 – runner-up 1987 – out in round one 1992 – out in round one 1996 – semi-final 1999 – out in round one 2003 – out in round one 2007 – Super 8 2011 – quarter-final 2015 – quarter-final
– The highest ever innings score from the West Indies in a World Cup came in 2015 when they scored 372/2 against Zimbabwe at Canberra. Their lowest total of 93 came against Kenya in Pune during the 1996 edition
– Chris Gayle (215 vs Zimbabwe, 2015) has the highest individual score by a Windies batsman. He hit 16 sixes and 10 fours in this splendid knock. Gayle also has the second highest individual score in the World Cup
– Winston Davis (7/51 vs Australia, 1983) has the best bowling figures notched by a Windies cricketer. Kemar Roach (6/27 vs Netherlands, 2011) comes second
– Brian Lara is the highest run-scorer for West Indies in the World Cup (1,225). He smashed two hundreds and seven fifties in 34 matches. Lara also holds the record for the most number of catches for West Indies (16)
– Sir Vivian Richards is the only other Windies player to score 1,000-plus runs (1,013). He also has the most number of hundreds for West Indies in the World Cup (3)
– With 27 scalps, Courtney Walsh holds the record for the most number of wickets in the World Cup for Windies. Andy Roberts took an impressive 26 scalps
– With 26 dismissals, Denesh Ramdin holds the record for the most dismissals by a wicketkeeper in the side
– Gayle and Marlon Samuels hold the record for the highest partnership (372 vs Zimbabwe, 2015)
– Clive Lloyd has the most appearances as skipper (17)
The advent of some fearsome power-hitters, led by a burly Andre Russell, has suddenly made the once intimidating but now struggling West Indies emerge as a serious threat to the Cricket World Cup’s top contenders.
‘Universe boss’ Chris Gayle was not at his brutal best at the recent Indian Premier League (IPL) but Russell’s butchering of the bowlers has forced the teams to take note of what could await them at the biggest International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament.
Proven performers such as Carlos Brathwaite and Darren Bravo are already there and add to that the rise of young Shimron Hetmeyer, who boasts 100-plus strike-rate in both ODIs and T20s, and opener Shai Hope, the Caribbean side definitely looks potent enough to spring a surprise. Since every team has to play all competitors, there is no escape.
The bickering between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the players have had a devastating impact on West Indies’ progress as an international team in both Tests and ODIs in the last few years. The result was that players such as Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo were not in thick of the action when the side was locked in battles across the globe. The side lost confidence, and most importantly, its identity as a force to reckon with.
But now that Gayle and Co are there in their line-up, and Bravo and Pollard too named as reserves, this World Cup could revive West Indies’ fortunes.
The small grounds in England coupled with flat pitches during the English summer could serve as the ideal platform for the West Indies batsmen to unleash their power game.
It’s time that the tall and strong West Indies batsmen, possessing enviable power, cash in on the opportunity and pull the trigger for their resurrection. The kind of talent they have does not justify their low eighth rank in the ICC table.
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