England series a dress rehearsal for World Cup– Holder

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(Reporting by Akeem Greene in Barbados, compliments of News Room and E-Networks)

Let’s go back a bit.

40 years ago, the West Indies did the expected, defeat England and won the ICC World Cup (60-overs) for the second time. Sir Viv Richards blasted a majestic 138 and the Caribbean powerhouses mowed England at Lord’s, their home of cricket.

Since then, they have done the unexpected, and fell to the bottom of the barrel in world cricket. A number of combustible reasons, steaming from administration, lack of finances, poor development strategies and player management.

After reaching a third successive final in 1983, their best showing since has been a semi-final placement in 1996, losing to runners-up Australia.

The next World Cup is 99 days away and it returns to England for a fifth occasion, a country where if maroon power decides to play to potential, there is rich history to emulate.

Jason Holder, thrown into captaincy ahead of the 2015 edition, will have a point to prove since he’s still in search of an ODI series win in close to four years.  His tactics and personal development have gathered improvement, but the wins’ column still has cobweb.

In 64 ODIs, he has lost 41 and only won 18; the others were either tied or ended in a no-result.  That is 64% of matches in defeats, which gives justice to being ranked ninth by the ICC.

It meant West Indies missed out on automatic qualification for this World Cup and had to go through another tournament from which they qualified alongside Afghanistan.

The Windies players are well aware of the timeline ahead of the 50-over World Cup (Photo: Akeem Greene)

There is now a chance to find solace, and enter the global event beaming with confidence by upstaging the favoured England. However, it will be utterly difficult given England have won their last nine ODIs against West Indies, including a 186-run thrashing in Barbados two years ago.

Team selection has always been a contentious issue, which played its part in the torrid outing. It is either Holder not having his “best players” available due their commitments to global T20 leagues or nagging injuries.

There has hardly been a settled ODI unit over the last two years and while most nations are just pencilling the final spot in their World Cup squad, Windies have just begun to write.

Probably only half of the current squad can safely pick themselves for the event and it is for that reason, the skipper is using this five-match series as an audition for players.

“It is very important; this is probably our last series before we finalise the squad for the World Cup and the last opportunities for the guys to show what they have and us to see combinations heading into the World Cup, but this is still a series were are playing and very important we win this series and look to play some really good cricket,” Holder explained.

He added, “All the teams are focused on the World Cup; it is a big tournament in the context of ICC cricket. We have got to formulate our plans heading there and this the first stop for us.”

According to ESPNCricinfo, dynamic all-rounder Andre Russell could return to the Windies ODI set up after it was initially reported “his knee is not yet up to the demands of 50-over cricket.”

Sunil Narine was also in the mix, but his return is uncertain, given his lack of confidence in a remodelled action.

Holder was not shy to state the door is still open for anyone to be selected: “We have selected a side for the first two matches and I don’t want to pre-empt selection, but there is still a possibility for anybody to come in. We have had a lot of injuries for the last couple of weeks as well so that may open up a window for someone else to come in.”

Ireland is to host the West Indies and Bangladesh for a Tri-series in May, but it is unfathomable to think by then the right combination won’t be found.

The miraculous Test series triumph has ignited hopes that Windies can topple to the top nations, but the ODI version is where their biggest test lies over the next couple of months.

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