T20 overachievers but underachievers in Test match cricket, ODI competition presents the West Indies with the opportunity to forge balance between quick bursts of success and sustained periods of pressure.
They won the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979 and were runners-up in 1983, but have only reached one semi-final since. The glory days of yesteryear are over and won’t likely be rekindled by a modern-day generation largely interested in Indian Premier League, Big Bash League and other T20 contracts around the world. That said, they’ve still got limited-overs behemoth Chris Gayle to show there’s place for both monetary pursuit and Caribbean loyalty.
Batsman to bank on
Gayle will play a record fifth World Cup – and has been named vice-captain, too. He has the third most ODI runs among those still playing the game and, despite a wealth of talent and big-hitting ability among the other batsmen in the squad, can’t be overlooked for the best campaign. The brazen left-hander’s ODI record in England boasts a country average a bit higher than a career aggregate of 38. This bodes well for an opening batsman who plays through the line and down the ground, especially on the flat tracks synonymous with the United Kingdom at the moment.
Bowler to bet on
Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel was the West Indies leading wicket-taker in ODI cricket last year, with all of 37 in just eight matches. While his 2019 trajectory hasn’t quite been on cue, due to a suspension after a spat with England batsman Joe Root, Gabriel is poised for a successful World Cup. If the ball isn’t swinging or seaming much, his tall frame and characteristic pace will at least be able to extract big bounce to trouble the batsmen.
The West Indies and Pakistan have not contested an ODI in two years. This will change on the second day of the 2019 World Cup, when they meet at Trent Bridge in Nottingham – among England’s highest-scoring venues. The battles within the war will likely see Gayle take on Mohammad Amir, Gabriel bombard opener Imam-ul-Haq and others.
If the men from the Caribbean can successfully navigate an over-reliance on Gayle and have the rest of the batsmen gel well, aided by complete performances among the bowlers, a first semi-final since 1996 will beckon. A group stage or quarter-final exit just won’t suffice for a country constantly trying to keep players contracted and away from the lure of the global T20 circuit.