The West Indies are broken. Consider a terribly injured patient battling for survival on life support. The West Indies could be likened to that patient who’s surviving on ventilator. It needs life. Desperately so. The chances, even though, grim and thin, hinge on the possible successes of two of the most famous Jamaicans in their line-up in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers games: Christopher Henry Gayle and Marlon Samuels. Truth be told, at a a time where much of Jason Holder’s side is lacking sufficiently in both- experience and big-match temperament, Gayle and Samuels must be congratulated for putting up their hands in support of the national side. That said, it is important to understand what made the West Indies plummet to such extreme lows that for the first time in their cricketing stint, that they’ve been forced to participate among cricket’s associate playing nations in a bid to seal a place for the world cup slated to occur in 2019.
For starters, unrest continues between the Windies cricket board and seniors that include the likes of Pollard, Sammy, Russell, Bravo and Narine. The experienced players continue to serve popular T20 leagues around the world instead of making themselves available for national duties. It appears the Windies Cricket Players Association too has run out of ideas so as to bring peace between the board and players.
As a result, the West Indies are fielding a side that has only Gayle, Samuels and Holder as three of their most experienced campaigners in the upcoming World-Cup qualifiers even as minor albeit promising minnows- Ireland, Scotland and, Zimbabwe are contesting in full capacity .
Even as doubt persists about the possible return of Windies’ experienced players whose unavailability for the qualifiers puts the team in a major spot of bother, all hope isn’t lost for true to their unpredictable nature, the West Indies might produce an epic surprise in the tournament. We look at 6 players who could be vital to a possible West Indian triumph even if the chances seem remote at the moment:
1. Chris Gayle
On his day, the ‘Gayle-storm’ can blast away any bowling attack. But will that happen in the current tournament? In order to make runs, Gayle must be careful about moving his feet well against spinners; perhaps just as well as he uses them to clobber seamers, in sending balls out of the park. Teams like Zimbabwe, UAE and Afghanistan are going to fully exploit Chris Gayle’s moderate success against spin to full advantage depending on clever variations on slow Zimbabwean wickets.
But to Gayle’s advantage, he might find the underrated and in fact hitherto less-known bowling attacks of associate nations buckle down in pressure. He must remember he’s a big wicket. He cannot play like a petulant child. A clumsy stroke played with utter carelessness could self-destruct the storm all of cricket world stays terrified of. Thankfully, heading into the World Cup qualifiers, the dire pressure on Windies could prove as a motivating factor.
2. Marlon Samuels
The perfect compliment to the big-hitting Gayle is his close friend; someone who neatly and often beautifully accumulates runs. Even as the two practice games saw major struggles among the Windies line-up, thankfully for Windies fans, Samuels was among the runs. A moody player and someone who possesses the rare talent to come down heavy on both spinners and pacers, if you consider big or key matches, then it’s Marlon Samuels whose record has done more damage from the perspective of helping West Indies ahead of Gayle. That should up the confidence of his side that is desperately looking to make a breakthrough.
3. Shai Hope
Touted as the next run-machine, Shai Hope, through some valiant knocks in 2017 proved that he’s no one match wonder. If his defiant 90 against Pakistan at Barbados showed signs of a true fighter, his heroics at Leeds- where he struck back-to-back hundreds proved both critics and backers that in Hope, West Indies could live another day. So even as Hope has reached Zimbabwe at the back of an utter failure against the white ball in New Zealand, he’d want to seek inspiration from his 2017 efforts to feed his faith. If there’s an occasion where his team needs Shai Hope to fire then its now: in the World Cup qualifiers.
4. Evin Lewis
For close to half a decade, Chris Gayle was devoid of the one stable factor that matters most at the top of the order. A regular batting partner to give the Windies a breezy, solid start. Finally, the selectors unearthed a rare talent; someone who bats quite like Gayle in Trinidadian Evin Lewis, a bloke who idolises the Jamaican. One of the few batsmen to score 2 T20 hundreds, Evin Lewis’ game is built on the important facet of finding gaps on either sides of the wicket and continuing to fire runs by bludgeoning several powerful half-a-dozens that’ve taken sides like India and England by utter surprise. The fact that Lewis won’t be facing any of the world’s top ranked bowling sides should inspire some confidence and serve as fodder to succeed. If West Indies are to construct a solid total, Lewis, one would hope stays out for long teaming with Gayle.
5. Carlos Brathwaite
Ian Bishop exclaimed with great emotion at Kolkata in arguably the most fitting finale of a T20 contest in recent times when he yelled, “Remember the name…”. From thereon, the world neither saw any of those explosive big hits nor any meaty batting or clever bowling, all of which had heralded Brathwaite to the attention of the cricket-frenzied public. But it could be argued, Carlos is a true workhorse; someone who’s spurred by the fight of the competition. Considering he rose to attention in the ICC World T20, a world cup undoubtedly, he may just need a big stage tournament to make up for all lost chances. Among the few contenders that can contribute with both bat and ball, West Indies will want Brathwaite to flex his muscles to cover the field on one occasion too many.
6. Jason Holder
Not the fastest bowler of his day, neither a lame pushover, when not taking wickets, Holder can curb run-rates and add to pressure early up the order. That’s just the kind of difference he’d quite like to add to a jaded, wounded West Indies from ball one in the tournament that is no less than a world cup for his side, even as his playing eleven are attempting to break through to the ICC World Cup 2019. With the bat, Holder’s clean hits and burlesque strokes can up the ante and often assist his side in doing important repair-work. Though, one would hope, it doesn’t come to a point where the West Indies need heroics from Holder and the lower order with their top batsmen back in the dugout. It’ll be also important to note how well Holder utilises the likes of Bishoo, Kesrick Williams, Sheldon Cottrell and others in the team.
Here’s how the West Indies’ most experienced talents have fared in World Cup contests thus far:
|215 vs Zimbabwe
|2/21 vs SA
|133* vs Zimbabwe
|56 vs India
|4/27 vs UAE