Who is in your West Indies World Cup squad?
…asks Akeem Greene
Nine of the ten participating teams for the 2019 International Cricket Council (ICC) 50-Over World Cup have announced their preliminary 15-man squads for the May 30 – July 14 showpiece in England and Wales.
The lone straggler is West Indies, who are expected to announce theirs on Wednesday, April 24. It is understood that teams can make changes until May 23 without seeking permission from the ICC’s event technical committee.
Prior to Ricky Skerritt’s entrance in the top position of Cricket West Indies (CWI), selection for the World Cup seemed most pedestrian, with the Courtney Browne led selection committee sticking to one set of players for most series, barring injuries.
Browne and his team, consisting of Travis Dowlin, Lockhart Sebastien and Eldine Baptiste, were given the boot, replaced by interim Chairman Robert Haynes, Interim Head Coach Floyd Reifer and Captain Jason Holder.
The new CWI administration has opened doors for all interested players to be considered. In simple, the globetrotting T20 stars in Sunil Narine, Keiron Pollard and even Dwayne Bravo, albeit retired, have been given an open door to international cricket, should selectors go their way for the World Cup.
So we have now reached the meat in the pie: who makes my 15 for the event?
In my assessment, I considered there will not be wholesale changes to the squad that played against England in the Caribbean, and some names people want to see may not be included.
Alright, enough suspense, this is the squad:
Akeem’s WC Squad: Christopher Gayle, Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetymer, Andre Russell, Jason Holder (cpt), Keemo Paul, Sunil Narine, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas, Kemar Roach, Nicholas Pooran, Fabian Allen and Raymond Reifer.
I will be the first to admit there are about three to four of those names (Lewis, Narine, Allen and Reifer) that maybe circumspect.
But this is my rationale for the 15.
- Chris Gayle is an automatic pick and a starter in every match. Apart from being the team’s most experienced player with eleven short of 300 ODI matches, the 39-year-old is still one of the biggest threats in limited overs cricket.
Against England, one of the favourites, the big Jamaican cracked 424 runs at an average of 106 and strike rate 134.17. His pedigree and a deep desire for his swansong to be prolific are all the more reasons for inclusion.
- Evin Lewis has not played ODI cricket since July 2018 against Bangladesh after hitting two consecutive half-centuries during the World Cup Qualifiers scores were 27, 17, 12 and 13. If nostalgia is anything to go on, his second ODI ton was a brazen 176* against host England September 2017.
Understandably, his numbers are less than desirable and more than likely he might not get a chance to play in the IPL due to Quinton de Kock, but the left-hander is too talented to leave in the Caribbean.
His recent presence or lack thereof has been tumultuous with persons questioning his commitment, added to that nagging injuries, however, he has shown all the ingredients he is world class quality.
More so, John Campbell, who currently does the job has shown ability but as his List A averages suggest, he does not convert starts and it has been evident in his stint at International cricket to date.
- Darren Bravo – the elegant batsman has not hit his full traps since returning to international cricket in December 2018, and understandable situation due to him being fast-tracked back to the team. But the reasons for his swift re-entry should tell you alone why he is rated among the best, if not the best the region has to offer.
- Shai Hope – he is, without doubt, another certainty. 875 runs at an average 67.30 were the leading stats for WI in 2018 ODI cricket. More so, he has been groomed into the role of wicketkeeper-batsman.
- Shimron Hetmyer scored 727 runs in 2018 inclusive of three centuries at an average of 40.38; the Guyanese left-hander has all the shots to dominate any bowling attack, but temperament and wise shot selection will be critical for the 22-year-old. His expansive stroke play on pitches which should be conducive for batting could see him a key factor in West Indies chasing or posting big totals.
- Andre Russell – once fit, the big Jamaican must be a starter. He has not played an ODI since July 2018 mainly due to nagging injuries. However, his imperious form in the ongoing Indian Premier League only shows the immense value he brings with the bat. I don’t expect him to deliver a full quota of 10 overs. It is simply the reality but he can win you a match easily in 10 overs with a bat in hand. His call up to the squad for England series shows that West Indies are very much interested in him playing.
- Jason Holder – the inspirational leader in the Tests, lacks in the ODI, however, he has a chance to make amends after being thrown at the deep end just a series before the 2015 World Cup. Holder has talent but will have to improve tactically especially in the middle overs, where most of these ODI matches and decided these days. He will have to make up his mind whether he wants to take the responsibility of a death bowler, which has not been productive or operate at the start, where he gets genuine movement.
- Keemo Paul – baring injury during the England Test series, the all-rounder would have been in West Indies ODI squad for the five matches and the T20I. He has only played 11 ODI since making a debut in the qualifiers but has showcased all the ingredients to be the man for the death bowling job.
He is street smart and has a good disguise on his slower balls, and can deliver the Yorker too good effect. His ODI economy rate is under six and his 5/15, albeit in a T20I, shows there is quality in wicket-taking ability. Let’s not forget he is no mug with the bat.
- Sunil Narine – he is the most contentious selection since there a varying schools of thought for him not playing ODI cricket since 2016. Even though Narine may not have the full box of tricks with his remodelled action, he is still a big threat with the ball.
Ashely Nurse and Devendra Bishoo were WI main two spinners since 2017. In 2018-19, neither of the two took three or more wickets in a match. The issue here is not with the personality but rather the effectiveness given what other teams are getting from their spinners. Wrists especially have come to the forefront since the 2015 World Cup. Nearly all of the team, maybe with the exception of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, have quality match winning wrist spinner.
Just look at the impact of a Rashid Khan in world cricket of India’s duo of Kuldeep Yada and Yuzvendra Chahal in the middle overs. They are may go for runs but the main factor is that they are constantly picking up wickets.
It is luxury Holder has not had with his spinners. Apart from Bishoo’s horror series against England, he did relatively well but the match-winning impact Holder needed from his spinners was lacking.
However, while I have omitted Nurse and Bishoo from my team, I suspect the Barbadian will head to England.
- Oshane Thomas – his express pace will be handy. He still has a lot to learn with the art of fast-bowling, but it unfathomable to think he has to watch the world cup from the sideline. His 5-21 which blew away England shows his pedigree.
- Sheldon Cottrell – he was out of my books for a while but the returns against England were he got seven wickets in the four matches showed why the left-arm variation is more than a handy addition.
Three of the remaining four are quite expected.
Kemar Roach, the most experienced quick and Nicholas Pooran as the reserved batsman and wicketkeeper. On a gut feeling, Fabian Allen goes as handy addition with ball, power hitting and exceptional fielding.
My surprise comes in the form of Raymond Reifer. He has not played an ODI yet but his left-arm swing and gutsy batting can become in handy. More so, there needs to be back up for Russell. I think a final call on his selection can be made from the Tri-Nations series in Ireland.
There will have to be back up for Russell, and I suspect on that basis Carlos Brathwaite will get the nod.
Note: Marlon Samuels has not played top tier cricket since December 2018. He missed the series against England due to injury but still did not make the cut for the tri-nations. I would have hoped he would have been in that squad to get match practice, but to go to the world cup without any significant match practice after an injury is not smart.
Additionally, with Hope keeping and Bravo’s return along with Hetmyer in the middle, an in balance is possibly created. Again, let’s not be surprised if named. He has lots of match-winning pedigree behind his name.
I have not considered Dwayne Bravo since has retired nor Kieron Pollard due to him not being in any ODI plans.
The round-robin format gives any team a chance to make it to the semi-finals. One can expect big nations to topple each other and there must be upsets. If West Indies play to potential, there is a strong chance of a top four, winning the title after 40 years, is left to be seen.