By Debayan Mukherjee
Kolkata, May 27 (IANS) Blessed with some of the best power hitters in the world, West Indies can be unpredictable as the team can cause major upsets this World Cup starting on Thursday in England and Wales.
The once mighty Windies, who won the first two World Cups back to back in 1975 and 1979, have seen an upswing in their fortunes in recent times after a prolonged period of upheaval off the field.
With the big names choosing to stay away from the national team, Windies almost failed to qualify for this edition of the World Cup.
However, the return of the likes of Chris Gayle and Andre Russell following the resolution of a long-running pay dispute with the West Indies board has made the side one that no team would like to face.
IANS does a SWOT analysis of the Windies World Cup squad:
West Indies have match winners like Gayle and Russell, who have time and again showed that they can take any bowler on the planet to the cleaners. Both batsmen are coming off magnificent Indian Premier League campaigns where they lit up the Indian subcontinent with breathtaking performances.
While Russell smashed 52 sixes and scored at a strike rate of more than 200 for the Kolkata Knight Riders, both best in the league; the 39-year old Gayle clobbered a mammoth 34 sixes for the Kings XI Punjab.
This will be team vice-captain Gayle’s fifth World Cup and his experience will also be a key to the side’s success. Gayle has played 289 ODIs, scoring 10,151 runs.
Besides the famed duo, ice-cool skipper Jason Holder, with both bat and ball, and highly rated stumper batsman Shai Hope will also be key to Windies’ chances.
They are very unpredictable as a unit and on their off day, can be extremely poor in all departments. It will also be interesting to see how Gayle and Russell gel with the team as they have been away from the setup for most parts. The Windies’ bowling is still inexperienced despite the dangerous 22-year-old paceman Oshane Thomas and battle-hardened 31-year-old Shannon Gabriel in their ranks.
Russell’s role as the pace spearhead will also be key, but the 30-year old is injury prone and that could limit him from rolling his arms for 10 overs.
West Indies haven’t reached a World Cup final since 1983, and the occasion can get better of them too.
According to Gayle, this will be the “biggest World Cup” for the Windies going by the firepower in the team and current form. The 2012 and 2016 World T20 champions gave an excellent account of themselves against hot favourites and hosts England in a recent series and showed they have it in them to go the distance.
Besides Gayle and Russell, the likes of Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, and Nicholas Pooran have shown they can hit the ball long and in their bowling department too, Windies have Thomas and Kemar Roach and Gabriel who are real quicks. This will be their big opportunity to brush aside years of agony and burst onto the world scene.
Interim West Indies head coach Floyd Reifer has said that he expects this to be a high-scoring World Cup with bowling and fielding set to make the difference between the top teams.
“The team that bowls the best and fields the best will win the World Cup,” Reifer said recently.
In this aspect, West Indies will have to on guard as their bowling is relatively inexperienced and they lack a quality spinner who on flat English conditions can be an important factor in the middle overs.
Spinners Ashley Nurse and Fabian Allen will be tasked to do the job of containing runs in the middle period and breaking the partnerships, but how far they will be able to deliver remains to be seen.
West Indies will open their campaign against Pakistan at Trent Bridge on Friday.
Jason Holder (c), Chris Gayle, Kemar Roach, Darren Bravo, Andre Russell, Shai Hope, Sheldon Cottrell, Evin Lewis, Shannon Gabriel, Carlos Brathwaite, Ashley Nurse, Shimron Hetmyer, Fabian Allen, Oshane Thomas, Nicholas Pooran.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at [email protected])