West Indies: Shock Semi-Finalists?
West Indies gave glimpses of what could be expected of them as the tournament progresses by running over1992 World Champions Pakistan in the opening encounter. Not a favorite by a long stretch of the imagination before they made the world stand up and take notice of their performance in ODI series against no.1 ranked England which they drew 2-2.
And with some of its experienced player’s coming back into the rank having played and succeeded in global T-20 league all around the world. Will, this mix of youth and experience impact Windies, to repeat the feat of its old heroes of 1975,1979?
Here is the squad with analysis-
Jason Holder (C), Andre Russell, Ashley Nurse, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Gayle, Darren Bravo, Evin Lewis, Fabian Allen, Kemar Roach, Nicholas Pooran, Oshane Thomas, Shai Hope, Shannon Gabriel, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer
West Indies batting depth
In Chris Gayle, they have an old horse still bossing the bowlers as he showed against England by scoring 424 runs in 4 matches at a strike rate of 134, hitting record 39 sixes and then following up with another magnificent season of IPL scoring 490 runs at a strike rate of 151.
With an excellent match against Pakistan taking an athletic catch in the slip and producing some firework in the chase. The Universe Boss shows he still has a lot more to offer.
In Shai, Windies have the hope for the present and future. Perhaps, the early nerves and jitters of the World Cup got to him against Pakistan, and he ended up playing the false shot or presence off intimidating Gayle hitting sixes at will made him err in shot selection. Whatever be it, now that first match is done and dusted, expect more from the rising star of Windies in games to come who has been the team in maroon’s most consistent player becoming the fastest West Indian to get 2000 runs in ODI.
With changes in West Indies administrative setup, Andre Russell is back. Rusell had to go through injury issues, bans and run-ins with West Indies Cricket Board since his last ODI in 2015. But after his all-around performance in the IPL where he finished off matches from an impossible situation with his electric batting at a strike rate of 210 with 11 wickets, no ways Windies would have fielded best playing eleven without Rusell, and he repaid faith team management had on him with an impactful spell of 3-1-4-2. If Rusell stays fit, he could be a strong contender for man of the tournament award as three-dimensional players like Dre-Russ don’t come every day.
The fulcrum of the West Indies batting and influential leader
While impact players when it comes to batting will be Gayle Rusell, Hope, and even exciting Shimron Hetymer, but amidst the Carribean flair, the batting of Darren Bravo, Jason Holder that would hold the key. Darren who batted for the longest half-century in test cricket on his comeback(342 minutes) will be expected to be the glue for the team while the top and middle order express themselves. In Jason Holder, they got a leader and player the world is starting to respect with what the Windies captain has done with limited resources he has had at his disposal. Since 2015, Holder has been a chief contributor with both bat and ball as he averages 27 with bat and has taken 75 wickets with an economy rate of 5.48. He has got technique and temperament to bat out the tough situation as he showed with mini-gems in test cricket time and again.
Effective Bowling attack but lack of a quality spinner
In the bowling department, in a bid to include more power hitter’s they will go with one spinner -Ashley Nurse who can bat and pick the rest from Oshane Thomas, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell. Cottrell, Thomas both have five wickets against England. Though their numbers are not that great or strike fear in the mind of opposition, they get the job done. And Oshane’s four-wicket haul against Pakistan might have sealed his place for the rest of the tournament.
Windies are no doubt a team we love to love with an exciting brand of cricket they put on display be that in T-20 leagues or even playing in the national jersey. And with that flair comes the stroke of unpredictability and self-destructive mode. They have lost matches from winning the position, and that explains the poor record since 2015 CWC winning 19 games out of 62 without a bilateral series win. They rely much more on boundary hitting than singles-double in the powerplays that can create pressure for its middle order? But if Gayle gets going do you need singles. Not really! Fitness is another critical issue in a long tournament of 50 overs format, some of their best players could break down who are not accustomed to playing 50 overs format consistently. And despite being a young side, they are not well known for their safe catching. Jason Holder, the skipper, dropped a dolly offered by Babar Azam. Fortunately, it didn’t cost them the game. Stronger opposition could make them pay, but as a true cricket fan, you want Windies to do well as it could mean a fun summer in the UK. A lack of quality spinner going ahead in the tournament could stall its effort in the latter half of the competition if hot weather of the UK is anything to go by in the last two years.
With Pakistan out of the way, they Windies will be eyeing victory over Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand and even India, England whom the Caribbean team have given run for their money. The only thing predictable with Windies is unpredictability. So don’t be surprised if South African roll over them in next encounter. But on paper, they do have a mix of youth, experienced, and X-factor players and flat pitches in England might add to team advantage.
Even without sideways movement on the pitch, the bowler can use bouncer to a good effect like seen today against Pakistan. A balanced leader leads them well. So semi-finals shouldn’t be ruled out by any count for the mercurial team. West Indies are the team every whose danger another team is well aware. This World Cup is the most open World Cup to date.