West Indies turn to master blasters in bid to upset form book at Cricket World Cup
From winning the first two editions of the Cricket World Cup, West Indies’ stock has fallen so far since that they had to qualify for this tournament.
Even then, they almost did not make it – a defeat to Afghanistan and a near miss against Scotland almost costing them in the qualifier in Harare.
But Jason Holder’s side lived to fight another day and arrive in England with a squad packed with big-hitting talent and explosive fast bowlers.
They also held England to a 2-2 draw in their ODI series in the Caribbean earlier this year – the first team to avoid ODI series defeat to the English since India in 2017.
Andre Russell has earned a place in the squad after his blistering form at the IPL, while Chris Gayle remains at the top of the order in what will be his final World Cup.
Shai Hope is in fine batting form too, meanwhile, and there are plenty of reasons for West Indies – playing without pressure – to be optimistic.
But, on the flip side, they have not won an ODI series since beating Bangladesh in 2014 – a team they suffered three defeats against in the Ireland Tri-Nation Series most recently.
They still appear uncertain of their best XI and, for all their talent, players like Evin Lewis have simply not hit top form consistently enough.
Individually, the likes of Gayle, Russell, Holder, Hope and Kemar Roach are among the best in the business – but can they make an impact at the World Cup to end their recent nadir?
Key player: Andre Russell
Named IPL 2019 Player of the Tournament, Andre Russell arrives at the World Cup in the form of his life.
Russell smashed 52 sixes on his way to 510 runs in 13 innings in India – finishing with a strike rate just shy of 205.
He was also Kolkata Knight Riders’ top wicket-taker with 11, continuing the all-round form he had previously showcased in the Caribbean Premier League and Bangladesh Premier League.
In the former, Dre Russ smashed a 40-ball century and took a hat-trick in the same game, while in the latter he scored 299 runs and took 14 wickets in the tournament.
He may have only played one ODI since 2015 – due to injury, suspension and selection – but Russell simply had to be picked for this World Cup. He will be one of the stars of the show if he continues his current form.
Others to watch
Chris Gayle will retire from ODI cricket after this World Cup as one of West Indies’ greatest players of the modern era.
The 39-year-old has hit 25 ODI centuries and passed 50 on a further 51 occasions. His 283 innings have brought 10,151 runs – including a double-century at the last World Cup.
An icon of the modern game, the growth of T20 cricket has ensured the Universe Boss has been at the forefront of limited-overs cricket and he is not going quietly into his twilight years.
He was the sixth-highest scorer at the IPL, with 490 from 13 innings, while he signed off from his domestic one-day career with a century for Jamaica.
While his tendency to start slowly before brutally accelerating into life has sometimes proved costly, if he is still at the crease ten overs into an innings then the opposition are going to be in big trouble…
Back-to-back centuries at the start of the Ireland Tri-Nation Series put Shai Hope in exalted company in ODI cricket as it lifted his average in the format above 50.
After carrying such form into the final, finishing the series with scores of 87 and 74 against Bangladesh, Hope’s batting was one of West Indies’ high points of the series.
Hope finished the series with 470 runs in five innings, with an average of 94 and a strike rate just shy of 100.
With Gayle, Russell and co back for the World Cup too, after their post-IPL break, Hope can be the anchor to their firepower.
In troubled times for West Indies cricket, 25-year-old Hope could be the hero the Caribbean needs to lift this next generation.
Kemar Roach is not your typical West Indian fast bowler. The Bajan does not tower over his team-mates, hammering the ball into the surface from a great height.
Instead, 5’8” Roach boasts a skiddy pace which, in test cricket at least, has proved very fruitful. In this year’s series with England, Roach claimed 18 wickets in three games.
Injury ruled him out of the subsequent ODI series against the English tourists, and his return to fitness for the Ireland Tri-Nation Series was less spectacular.
But he heads to the World Cup with 117 ODI wickets, from 84 innings. If he can get some consistency back, he remains a threat in every format.
West Indies squad for ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
|Jason Holder (c)||27||All-rounder (RMF)|
|Chris Gayle||39||All-rounder (OS)|
|Carlos Brathwaite||30||All-rounder (RMF)|
|Sheldon Cottrell||29||Bowler (LFM)|
|Fabian Allen||24||Bowler (SLA)|
|Shannon Gabriel||31||Bowler (RF)|
|Ashley Nurse||30||Bowler (OS)|
|Kemar Roach||30||Bowler (RFM)|
|Andre Russell||31||All-rounder (RFM)|
|Oshane Thomas||22||Bowler (RF)|
July 4 – West Indies vs Afghanistan (Headingley, Leeds)
While there may end up being nothing riding on this game in terms of the World Cup, West Indies’ final fixture is still an important one for Jason Holder’s team.
Already faced with the ignominy of having to qualify for a tournament they were once heavyweights in, West Indies lost twice to Afghanistan in the qualifier in Harare.
Cricket’s fallen giants take on the sport’s rising stars again at the end of the group stage – and West Indies have plenty to prove at Headingley. Indeed, Holder has already stoked the fire ahead of their re-match.
West Indies Cricket World Cup 2019 fixtures
|May 31||Pakistan||Trent Bridge, Nottingham|
|June 6||Australia||Trent Bridge, Nottingham|
|June 10||South Africa||Rose Bowl, Southampton|
|June 14||England||Rose Bowl, Southampton|
|June 17||Bangladesh||County Ground, Taunton|
|June 22 (D/N)||New Zealand||Old Trafford, Manchester|
|June 27||India||Old Trafford, Manchester|
|July 1||Sri Lanka||Riverside, Chester-le-Street|
|July 4||Afghanistan||Headingley, Leeds|
Happy to avoid
Ultimately, the record books record that West Indies beat Scotland in Harare to confirm their place at the 2019 Cricket World Cup. But that does not tell even half the story.
Scotland bowled West Indies out for 198 and were 125/5 – needing 74 runs from 88 balls – when the rain curtailed their innings.
They were behind the DLS par score, however – not helped by an incorrect LBW decision against Richie Berrington a few overs earlier. West Indies sneaked through, but they will be glad not to be facing Scotland at this World Cup.
West Indies have not won an ODI series since 2014, when they beat Bangladesh. Multiple defeats against every cricketing nation have followed.
They looked to have turned a corner when they halted England’s winning streak in February – bowling the tourists out for 113 in the final ODI to claim a 2-2 series draw.
But that was only a brief respite as they failed to overcome Bangladesh at the Ireland Tri-Nation Series.
Shai Hope was in outstanding batting form and Shannon Gabriel claimed eight wickets, but three defeats to the Tigers meant West Indies had to settle for second place.
West Indies are in poor form in ODI cricket but they do at least have a few aces up their sleeves – Chris Gayle and Andre Russell returning for the World Cup.
Even with those two, however, they have a big task ahead of them if they are to make any mark on this tournament.
The form book and the world rankings instead point to the fact West Indies will be battling at the wrong end of the table.