The scorer of 2 triple hundreds, the first ton in T20 world cup and over 8,800 ODI runs decorated with 21 dazzling hundreds, there is no denying the phenomenon of Christopher Henry Gayle. Almost 34, and at the peak of his form, there are hardly any haters of this easy going lad from Jamaica, apart from the bowlers who are treated harshly by the big hitting willower. With tremendous experience under his belt, and a mighty heart ever ready to propel the fortunes of his beloved West Indies, Gayle the opener can be the most destructive player on his day. Never the one to bog down under pressure or back off from playing his attacking brand of cricket, at times he may seem a bit lazy often shying away from running that extra run, but he compensates for it by striking the bowl hurriedly over the fence. Having played big knocks against Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia and perhaps every dominant force of international cricket, Gayle's wicket will lift his opponents as much as it will benefit his side the longer he stays out in the middle. He will look for able support from Samuels, Simmons and Bravo and will be eager to play the sheet anchor's role in a bid to generate brute force for the West Indies.
Playing in a tournament like the Cricket world cup is no easy task and for a side like the West Indies that is constantly looking for some inspirational figure around whom their young and inexperienced lot can rally around. They will look to Darren Sammy to provide necessary motivational support to their resilient players. Sammy is quite an experienced cricketer having represented the national side in 115 one day games. The hard hitting batsman with 9 ODI fifties is fast enjoying the reputation of a finisher and enjoys a superb strike rate of 101. The 31 year old St. Lucian will be one of the key marshals extending guidance and useful advice to the newly appointed Jason Holder. Sammy led the West Indies to their memorable T20 World Cup victory in an emphatic fashion in 2012 and since then has largely seen a resurgence in his spirited side and a steadily growing following for the national side. He was also appointed the captain in 2010 and brought up moderate success, with noteworthy performances being in the shortest versions, with the significant breakthrough being leading the team to its first test win in two years. Over the past few years, it is under his able guidance that new talents like Lendl Simmons, Sunil Narine, Sunil Badree and Andre Russell have made their mark in international cricket. While Sammy's brute batting will add teeth to a hard hitting batting line up, his team will depend on his wicket taking abilities as a medium pacer to deliver them the goods. Playing in his second world cup, Sammy will be a vital figure for a resurgent West Indies.
A confident right handed youngster looking to score freely in a relaxed demeanour is perhaps the best way to describe the 29 year old Trinidadian. While at times, Simmons takes a while to settle down in a one day encounter, it isn't often that bowlers succeed to keep the big hitting bat quiet. He plays the pull shot as well as he drives through the covers. He has scored 2 centuries and 15 fifties from 62 ODIs and he has demonstrated the ability to up the scoring rate when his side needs it the most. There is often a grin associated with missing out on a delivery crying to be carved for a meaty blow, but that only conveys his hunger to score. Flashy but confident, brave and level headed, it is only a matter of time before the young bat comes on to his own on the big stage. Windies fans love his big heaves over extra cover and long on and in the past, he has shown that he can successfully hold one end whilst contributing toward useful partnerships with the likes of Bravo, Samuels and Gayle. If there is anything that the brave right hander would wish for is to have a fixed batting slot to contribute from. He has often been the fast scoring opener and the accumulator down the order and in order to extract the best out from him, his coach and captain would do well to motivate him to play his natural game.
For a lot of people supporting the Windies, the appointment of Jason Holder as their World Cup captain was a surprising but pleasant decision but for the biting critics, who perhaps never seem to enjoy the lads from the Caribbean, this was another no brainer. Whether the elevation of the tall and lanky Barbadian as the ODI captain turns out to be a dampener or a major breakthrough is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain- past captains like Darren Sammy and Denesh Ramdin who have fared reasonably well in the past would be hassle free and ready to focus on the game sans pressure. At 6 feet 6 inches, Holder seems an encouraging new fast bowling find for a West Indies bowling cauldron that boasts of some promising names like Taylor and Roach. He sways away from bowling the shorter deliveries that are known to guarantee batsmen free runs and has the ability to maintain a tight line and length. He uses his height to generate extra pace and bounce and that high arm action reminds one of the great Curtly Ambrose. Though he hasn't played even 30 ODI games yet, his strict adherence to bowling at a particular line speaks of his discipline. The young Windies captain who is no stranger to hitting it fair and square will look to play a mature hand down the batting order. With a studious cricketing brain at the helm of the affairs, the experienced lot will be determined not to let the young gun down.
Marlon Samuels always makes for an interesting cricketing story. When he was young and wayward he fell for the lust of making a quick buck and despite his fierce batting talent was shown the exit doors for a good 3 years. But when the lanky right hander made his way back into the national side, he was certain of one thing- there was no going back. Now at 34, the wise and experienced Marlon Samuels who has represented his team in over 160 ODI games, collecting over 4400 useful runs is not only a permanent feature in a side looking to forever improve its international record but is largely recognized as one of the most dangerous top order batsmen in modern cricket. Coming in at no.3, the man who considers himself as the "Iceman" who fails to identify stress is a useful contributor at the top, who is seen at ease scoring all round the park and often seen enjoying sending the ball over the ropes. Athletic and muscular, Samuels once set in, looks to carry his bat through for long and enjoys taking on the pace challenge. He plays the cover drive magnificently and loves charging down to the spinners every now and then. Possessing a natural gift of timing, one wonders if the calm Jamaican can develop a bit more patience, his promising scores can frequently be seen converted into three figures- a facet his teammates will cherish in World Cup 2015.
We all thought that when the Prince of Trinidad; Brian Lara retired, the gods were sending a signal that a memorable era of Caribbean batting known for flair, flamboyance and finesse was done and dusted. But little did anyone ever speculate about the revival of the "Lara factor", that too in the Caribbean, a few years later in 2009, with the emergence of Darren Michael Bravo. Lara's cousin and huge fan, Darren now an intrinsic figure of West Indies cricket has caught the popular imagination with the same appeal that was once attached to his prodigious elder cousin. At 26, appearing in 80 ODIs and collecting 2 hundreds and 16 fifties at an impressive strike rate, Darren, who grew up idolizing the legendary Lara is the biggest hope in the Caribbean to uplift the national side from its state of frequent performance disorders and lacklustre performances. The stylish left hander has a gift of timing, a pleasant repertoire of exquisite strokes on both sides and importantly, a brave heart forever ready to tackle pressure. A reminder of the great past associated with the West Indies, the elegant Trinidadian is a gutsy lad who cleanly strikes the bowl out of the park and would be keen to make his presence felt in a tournament of great significance for his side and for Windies fans. He showed what he was capable of when he defied the pace of Morkel and Steyn during his famous 73 in World Cup 2011, and in this year would be eager to score his first world cup ton. If the youngster puts his head down to focus on the big stage, we might see the flashy grin and whirring blade of the 'Laraesque' wonder lifting the spirits of Windies camp.
One of the most interesting and valuable finds of the West Indies cricket is the athletic Andre Russell, a hard hitting lower order batsman from Jamaica. Renowned for his big hitting abilities at all sides of the park, Russell is quick to dispatch short deliveries and real bad bowls over the fence. At times, the muscular Jamaican looks almost effortless in his cherry shattering act, a facet which is central to his batting forte. Windies are a side that often rely on the abilities of their batsmen to give them any sizable advantage over the opposition and with Andre Russell's useful inclusion as the destruction expert, the lower order has more teeth to bite the opposition having Denesh Ramdin and Darren Sammy as the effective accumulator of runs down the lower order. Typically, Russell doesn't get many overs to finish since his accustomed position allows him to face the death overs and this is where the side expects his maximum output. He has played 44 ODIs so far and has a strike rate of 126.32. His best innings was against India in 2011 where he came in at number 9 and scored 92*. He showed tremendous form in the recently concluded ODI series in South Africa where due to his big hitting exploits, the Windies savoured their only precious one win triumph. Those big heaves over long on and the muscular pull strokes can alarm the best of the fast bowling attacks and getting more deeper into the world cup, the West Indies will rely on Russell's fast scoring ways to provide them a healthy total. He is also an athletic fielder who can quickly cover the park owing to his supreme fitness and adds vitality to the side by saving a few runs.