The West Indies - Still looking for their misplaced glory
World Cup 2011 -
World Cup 2011
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 00:00
Contributed by Rishabh Bablani
Yes, that old wagon. Every moment since 1983 people have mentioned the West Indian spiral as they’ve gotten progressively worse (it is also something I’ve only heard, because I was born in 1990). They’ve sunk lower and lower, hitting a new low just a few days ago, when Bangladesh overtook them in the ODI rankings.
The thing about World Cups, though, is that prior form doesn’t matter - the motivation itself can often be a huge boost to confidence and form. Plus, they couldn’t have asked for a better series to play before the tournament - against one of the hosts. They may not have played at any of the World Cup venues, but they’ve had the chance to acclimatize.
The squad has everything: seniors who have been around for a while, fresh faces, experienced players who have been in and out of the team, and Chris Gayle. The batting looks solid on paper, but we’ve seen enough Calypso Collapses to know that nothing is ever simple for this lot. As for the bowling - if you went back in time and told them that it would be their weak link, and that a spinner was their best bet, they would ask you what you had been smoking, and then they would compose an amusing song about you.
Chris Gayle, freed from the binds of captaincy, should be batting better without the pressure of being the skipper. The truth is, you still don’t know what you’ll get with him - he will range anywhere between a golden duck and a 150 by the 35th over. He will lose a few balls, but his off-spin may take a pounding.
Adrian Barath, marked as a future hero by Lara much like Voldemort did to Harry, has had a good start to his career with one flashy century each in ODIs and Tests. His record suggests that if he gets in, he scores big, but fails otherwise. A strike rate of 65 in 8 ODIs is perhaps not such a bad thing when you have the Gaylestorm at the other end.
Darren Bravo, resemblance to Lara and all, actually seems to be delivering on his promise. He may have only 2 fifties so far, but he is no slouch and has looked fantastic in every innings. This could well be a breakout tournament for him.
Ramnaresh Sarwan has been around for around 11 years now, and he’s only 30. An impressive ODI record, a better subcontinent record and an even better World Cup record (584 runs at 58.4) means that he’s an extremely important player for this side. It helps that he’s in super form (123 in the warm-up match yesterday) and he’s about to have a good tournament.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, at 36, is surely playing his last World Cup. It will be his fifth, and despite his 856 runs at 40 in the previous four editions, he’s had to deal with plenty of disappointment. A man for any situation, he doesn’t look in good nick heading into the tournament, but he has enough experience (17 years’ worth) to bounce back. And he will.
Dwayne Bravo is supposed to be one of the top all-rounders in the world right now, but he doesn’t win as many matches as a player with his talent should. He can stick around with the bat, but he gets antsy if boundaries don’t come. His medium-fast bowling sometimes has trouble controlling the flow of runs in the middle overs, but his variations in the death overs (especially the slow yorker) will be handy.
Kieron Pollard, the X factor of this side (nothing to do with singing), may not play every game because his form isn’t great, but he can win games from any stage - his role is pretty much the same as Abdul Razzaq’s or Yusuf Pathan’s. If he can convert some of his T20 form into ODIs, he can consider his job done. He will win at least one game entirely on his own.
Darren Sammy, the unlikely captain, is a steady cricketer. Like Johan Botha, he will provide useful runs and tie up one end with his medium-fast bowling, but not much else.
Carlton Baugh is one of the few keepers in the world who wasn’t picked for being a better batsman. He is yet to score a fifty in his 33 ODIs, but his ability to score a few quick runs will probably come in useful at some point or the other.
Sulieman Benn is the customary brat that every team seems to have these days. He is, in my opinion, the best bowler in this side, and he looks set to shine in conditions favoring him, providing he doesn’t do something stupid to sideline him. He didn’t play the first practice match against Kenya, but he should play the next one.
Kemar Roach has a very impressive record only 15 matches into his career, with 26 wickets at 22. He regularly sends down deliveries above 140 kmph, and his pace and ability to extract bounce will be very important on the subcontinent pitches. I do think, however, that better batting sides will take him for runs - he will still get wickets, though.
Andre Russell is the least experienced member of the side, and has played just one Test for the West Indies. He took 4 wickets to clean up the Kenyan tail in the practice match yesterday, but that was obviously not one of the major challenges that the World Cup will throw up. He is in the side based on his reputation of being quick and can bat too, as he has a first-class hundred and a List A fifty.
Nikita Miller, the second spinner, is a good containing bowler - so he would work well in partnership with Benn, but when it comes to picking one spinner he will be left out, since taking wickets is obviously a higher priority. He’ll do well whenever he plays, especially in Sri Lanka.
Devon Smith, the injury cover for the batsmen, has played only 32 ODIs since his debut 8 years ago. He has been in and out of the side and has 3 fifties to show for it, one of which was in the last World Cup in Brian Lara’s final game.
Ravi Rampaul, an injury-prone seamer with unspectacular pace, can often be expensive though he is always looking for wickets. He is probably going to play second fiddle to the other quicks in the squad, but he will bowl his heart out when he does play.
Official-looking prediction: Group stage. Bangladesh will just get ahead of them to secure a Super Eights spot. The bowling will struggle, and unless Pollard can hit his stride, the batsmen will struggle too.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 00:14
About the author
This Week's Poll:
Is the entire IPL fixed?