There is considerable optimism surrounding West Indies ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019. They needed the qualifiers to seal their place in the tournament, but somehow, as the event has drawn closer, they have strung together a few important victories, found their best unit, and their key players gained form.
Perhaps their most impressive feat was in holding England, the No.1 team in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings, to a 2-2 draw in their five-match clash earlier in the year. That it came on the back of a Test series win only added to the positivity surrounding the team.
Then, against New Zealand in the World Cup warm-up game, they batted deep and slammed 421 without even batting out their overs.
The challenge for them now is to ride the bounce into the World Cup, and the chances of them doing that, at the outset, seem high. Their big players are in form. Chris Gayle, who has announced his decision to retire from one-day internationals after the tournament, was in decent touch in the series against England and then in the Indian Premier League.
Shai Hope scored two centuries and as many half-centuries in the tri-series against Bangladesh and Ireland, and followed it up with one more hundred in the warm-up against New Zealand. Similarly, Andre Russell’s form in the IPL was almost frightening. In all, there is plenty going for the inaugural World Cup champions in the 12th edition of the men’s tournament.
Strengths and weaknesses
The strength of this West Indies side is all too evident – their batsmen can be ruthless, and far too many of them are blessed with hitting skills that are the envy of the rest of the world.
Encouragingly for West Indies, a lot of these players have shown form heading into the tournament – Gayle was the sixth-highest scorer in the IPL, right below Andre Russell at No.5, who had put in one of the most distinctive performances in the tournament’s history. Meanwhile, Hope scored two centuries and as many half-centuries in the tri-nation series against Ireland and Bangladesh.
However, they seem a bit batting heavy. Kemar Roach, their pace spearhead, has taken just three wickets in his last six one-day matches. Their spinners, Ashley Nurse and Fabian Allen, haven’t had great build-ups, and are expected to struggle in flat tracks in England and Wales.
Key player: Shai Hope
The 25-year-old has become a crucial cog of this West Indies side. In 54 ODIs so far, he averages a commendable 51.06 with 2247 runs, including six centuries and 10 fifties. In 10 ODIs since the turn of the year, he averages 65 and has 585 runs. He can open the innings and also slot in the middle order when required, and has quickly become the sort of player who can inspire the rest of the team with his performances. West Indies have big hopes for him.
X factor: Andre Russell
Russell is the sort of player who, when on song, can single-handedly change the direction of a match. He did so quite a few times in the IPL this year, and in fact, those performances had a big say in him being selected in West Indies’ 15-man squad for the tournament. In 52 ODIs so far, Russell averages just 28 and has four half-centuries. But recent signs suggest he’s in decent nick, and if he can continue in similar form, he’ll create plenty of teams a lot of problems.
West Indies won the inaugural edition of the men’s World Cup in 1975, seeing off Australia in the final. They defended their title in 1979, beating England in the final, and could have made it a hat-trick of World Cups had India not surprised them in the final of the 1983 edition. They haven’t hit those heights since.
In 1987 and 1992, they crashed out at the group stage. They made the semis in 1996, but didn’t make it out of the group stage in 1999 and 2003. They hosted the event in 2007, and progressed to the Super 8s, while in 2011 and 2015, their campaigns ended in the quarter-final stage.
Recent form (most recent first)
L L W L W W L NR W L
Consistency has been an issue for West Indies. They were without their full-strength squad in the tri-series in Ireland, where they were defeated by Bangladesh in the final. Against England earlier, though, they were in fine flow.
31 May: v Pakistan, Trent Bridge, Nottingham
6 June: v Australia, Trent Bridge, Nottingham
10 June: v South Africa, Hampshire Bowl, Southampton
14 June: v England, Hampshire Bowl, Southampton
17 June: v Bangladesh, County Ground Taunton
22 June: v New Zealand, Old Trafford, Manchester
27 June: v India, Old Trafford, Manchester
1 July: v Sri Lanka, the Riverside Durham
4 July: v Afghanistan, Headingley, Leeds
Squad: Jason Holder (c), Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Ashley Nurse, Fabian Allen, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wk), Oshane Thomas, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Evin Lewis
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