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Rating the WI’s World Cup chances

I was asked a question recently to rate the West Indies’ (WI) chances of winning the Cricket World Cup (CWC) which bowls off on May 31 in England and I replied that 40 per cent chance of such an occurrence would be a fair guess.

I don’t believe that because WI drew the 50-over five match series 2-2 against England in the Caribbean last February/March, and that opponent being the number one rated team in the world in this format, hence WI chances would miraculously increase.

One has to observe the performances over the past few years and try to glimpse the slightest sign of good cricket being played. And that’s the secret; the playing of the game in a manner that is deserving of being a champion team which will demolish all comers, then hold aloft the trophy which signifies and rewards the victors.

Don’t get me wrong, WI played well to thrash England in their recent Test series, followed by drawing the five One-Day Internationals. There are a few things that must be looked at in order to evaluate the strength of the Caribbean team apart from that recent success.

The first point is that the WI qualified for the CWC by a fluke! This was just a year ago when Afghanistan whipped them in the final in Zimbabwe. Fortunately two teams from that tournament of the associated members of the International Cricket Council were accepted to play in the CWC.

Nonetheless, the lowly rated Afghans ran through the WI twice in the competition. That is embarrassing for West Indians to grasp how far we had fallen. Also, WI qualified through the luck of having a game against Scotland rained out with the Scots on 125/5 in 35.1 overs, six runs short of their winning target of 131 in the Duckworth/Lewis System method of determining targets when matches are shortened by the weather. WI had made 198 against Scotland.

The majority of players in that contest to qualify for the CWC are in the present squad to play in a couple of weeks against the best in the world. WI has no recent record of winning regularly enough in the past ten years to suddenly give their supporters hope.

Bravo form worrying

Although they have endured administrative problems for the last six years, a change in that body by choosing a new president would not simply multiply one’s chances. The emotion created by the election of the new leader of WI cricket would give many a ray of hope, the results of which would not be seen in the immediate future!

During the adjustment period, there will be an improvement in the players’ approach as there would be more of a feeling of security which would translate into better performances, but certainly not overnight!

Plus, new selectors and coaches will all need time to adapt, by understanding their players, the different attitudes, the several motivating factors of each individual, in order to get the best out of them.

There are seven cricketers in the World Cup squad that are not presently in the Tri-Nation-Series in Ireland, together with the home team and Bangladesh, that was originally designed as a warm-up for the big event.

Their time would be brief to mentally attune to the several subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the 50-over format against tough and serious competitors. A lot will depend on how quickly the likes of Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer appreciate that the ODI is a contest that requires longer batting time at the crease hence more concentration to play longer innings.

Chris Gayle, Carlos Brathwaite and Andre Russell are experienced enough to know just what is needed while Nicholas Pooran and Oshane Thomas must absorb quickly the nuances of participating in a world-class competition. 

This is the area where the coach, and captain to a lesser extent, must create the atmosphere of the environment that makes it exciting and responsible for the inexperienced youth without allowing him to be afraid of the situation.

Meanwhile, WI players in Ireland are getting featherbed wickets to play on, the difference in England would be testing. One cannot get away with weaknesses in the team effort. Darren Bravo at the time of writing has not been showing any kind of form which is worrying.  He needs to develop his concentration and the only way to do that is long sessions in the nets.

Shai Hope, on the other hand, looks the picture of a polished and mature batsman. That maturity is vital as so few of the batsmen show this virtue.

Gayle is Gayle and Russell is a game changer; nevertheless, one needs Bravo to be consistent as he is one of the experienced and supposedly mature batsmen, after all he’s 30! Fast bowlers Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell and Shannon Gabriel are not as accurate as one would like for a 50-over game and when up against world class batsmen they might be found wanting.

As much as I hate to say it, WI is a mediocre side on the world stage. I hope and pray they prove me wrong!