West Indies look to shake off World Cup struggles
By Avenash Ramzan
Another four-year World Cup cycle begins tomorrow for West Indies, and the immediate aim is to shake off the debacle of the last one in England and Wales.
Two wins from nine games meant Jason Holder’s men fell way down the pecking order- finishing ninth among the 10 teams- and the search for a first World Cup title since 1979 has been extended.
The rebuilding, such a salient feature of West Indies cricket these days, continues with the first of three matches against India on Thursday, starting 09:30h at Providence, Guyana.
And no other but Holder knows that in order for West Indies to really challenge the bigger nations and avoid being embarrassed by the lower ranked ones, they need to step up in all areas, especially with bat in hand.
“We had quite a bit of time to sit back and think about how the World Cup went and our shortcomings. We had a few discussions as a group already and obviously our batting let us down in the World Cup,” Holder said on the eve of the match.
“I don’t think we batted well enough for long periods; we always spoke of having a set batter at the very, very end and guys batting deep and taking the responsibility. That’s definitely one area we want to pinpoint and obviously correct (in this series).”
The ageing Chris Gayle and the young brigade Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, John Campbell and Evin Lewis would have to shoulder the bulk of the scoring against an Indian bowling attack that has thrived in the preceding three T20 games.
It is not clear how long more Gayle will continue in the format, but what is certain he is just 11 runs from eclipsing Brian Lara’s 10,348 runs, the most by a West Indian in ODIs.
“He’s obviously done well over the years and it’s great to still have him in the squad. He obviously brings a lot to the team; his presence is always when he steps out on the cricket field and we’re happy to have him in the dressing room,” Holder remarked.
In the last two series between these two sides, India prevailed by 3-1 margins, in the Caribbean in 2017 and at home last year. However, West Indies had some semblance of success prior to the World Cup, drawing a home series with England 2-2.
That is something Virat Kohli and the men in blue would be cognisant of, as West Indies tend to be more competitive in home conditions.
India’s World Cup also didn’t go as planned- one of the pre-tournament favourites, they were knocked out at the semi-final- so this series will also serve to address some of the issues they encountered in England and Wales.
That task would start without some key players in MS Dhoni, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya.
“For us the priority always has been to be one of the most consistent sides in the world, and I think in the last three to four years we have been able to achieve that with (being) the number two side in the world and there’s a good reason for that; it’s been the kind of cricket we’ve been playing for the last two-three years that has gotten us up there,” Kohli said.
West Indies (probable): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis/John Campbell, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Shimron Hetmyer, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Roston Chase, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Keemo Paul, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Oshane Thomas, 11 Sheldon Cottrell
India (Probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 KL Rahul, 5 Manish Pandey/Kedar Jadhav/Shreyas Iyer, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk) 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Khaleel Ahmed/Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav/Yuzvendra Chahal