Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Laurie Foster | Don’t expect too much from Windies at World Cup

Published:Wednesday | May 22, 2019 | 12:18 AM
West Indies’ Shai Hope play a shot through the covers during the third one-day international match between India and West Indies in Pune, India, on Saturday, October 27, 2018.

The West Indies team will go into World Cup 50-overs-a-side battle in England and Wales in a matter of weeks. It is widely discussed among the sport’s adoring fans,as to what will be its chances of notching a third title, 40 years after its last in 1979. Despite the ebb and flow of the team’s fortunes in recent times, it is difficult to match the enthusiasm and excitement engineered by West Indians all over, who still believe in the maroon-clad men’s ability to deliver the goods. How well-founded are these views?

The format this time will see the 10 qualifying teams each playing against one another in the opening round. The four top teams will go to a semi-final from which the ultimate winner will be decided on a knockout basis.

The Jason Holder-led squad is in for a rough passage to make it to the second stage. Gone are the days when scores of under 300 can point to, much less guarantee, a victory. Having said that, the Windies batting is suspect. Apart from being a batsman short, and the stark reality of that, it is too heavily dependent on the vice-­captain, Christopher Gayle, at just under 40 years old, to set the stage for match-winning totals. The rest of the batting gang includes a struggling out-of-form Darren Bravo, a recently unproductive Evin Lewis, plus the new kid on the block, Shimron Hetmyer. It is only the rapidly blossoming Shai Hope, in whom its supporters can be well pleased, as his run-scoring capacity is torrential. After this comes the all rounders, Holder himself and Andre Russell, still recuperating from knee injuries. In the case of the latter, he has made a significant contribution in Twenty20 cricket and it would not be prudent to depend on him to sparkle over longer periods, which would be the case if the upper-order batsmen fall into decline.

As far as the bowlers are concerned, the inclusion of Ashley Nurse seems a given. Otherwise, the team will be dependent on pacemen Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach and either Sheldon Cotterell or Oshane Thomas. None of these has shown in the recent Tri-Nation Series with Ireland and Bangladesh, the consistency to make meaningful, early breakthroughs, especially when up against the Asians.

With all that in mind, it would be unwise to place too much confidence in this West Indies team. One does not necessarily wish to put them down, but the reality must be appreciated. Based on what was on display against Bangladesh and Ireland, they appear not to be good enough to make the mark for which their supporters hope.

But, as has been proven in the past, cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. As former West Indies great, Michael Holding, warns, “Never rule any reasonable team out of a one-day tournament.”

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