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Five World Cup Questions for West Indies after CPL 2018

Cricket news - Five World Cup Questions for West Indies after CPL 2018

Ever since the announcement that discussions between Cricket West Indies and the Bravo brothers, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine had opened the door for them to possibly feature in the 2019 World Cup, their performances in the just-concluded Caribbean Premier League took on extra significance.

Although the plan was for the quartet to play in the full domestic 50-over tournament and push for an ODI recall via their performances, circumstances on and off the field could have altered those plans.

The 2-1 ODI series loss to Bangladesh in July meant that West Indies have not won a 50-over series under Jason Holder's captaincy, leaving the one-day side in further disarray. India announced their tour dates for the West Indies' visit in October with the first ODI beginning on October 21. With the Super50 back home scheduled to run between October 3 and 28, the West Indies selectors will not be able to pick their squad based on meaningful domestic form.

Hence the added importance of the CPL, in which all of the four aforementioned senior players performed. Pollard and the Bravo brothers all made it into both Cricbuzz's and the official CPL tournament XI. With officially 13 one-day games to go before the World Cup - starting with India, then against Bangladesh and England - here are five questions the Windies need to answer in the wake of CPL 2018.

1. Will the call be made for a new ODI captain now or will Holder stay?

Prior to this year's CPL, Jason Holder presided over another West Indies ODI series defeat, making it 14 series and tournaments without victory since he took over the leadership during the January 2015 tour of South Africa.

There are very few sports where a team captain can last four years without winning and still remain in the job, and Holder's captaincy case took a further hit in the CPL as his Barbados Tridents team finished last in the tournament. With the India Tests clashing with the domestic 50-over tournament, Holder won't have a chance to stake a performance-based case why he should remain in the job.

However while his captaincy remains a struggle, his ability as an all-rounder continues to evolve and the logical step for him and West Indies cricket could be to relieve him of the captaincy and let him focus on improving his all-round game.

In CPL-winning captain Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle and Denesh Ramdin, there are four very experienced senior player options that can take over the reins for the final push to the World Cup. The big questions remains whether the selectors will do this.

2. The wicketkeeper dilemma - Shai Hope or Denesh Ramdin?

Despite averaging a respectable 37.16 in his short ODI career, the impressive Shai Hope - who was one of the Wisden's five cricketers of the year in 2017 - has faced

criticism for his below par strike rate of 66, an issue that was a major talking point during the Windies series loss to Bangladesh.

However in the Barbados Tridents' first game of the CPL he struck a superb innings of 88 from 45 deliveries, showing that he has the game to score rapidly. He ended with a tournament strike rate of 137 and was among the top 10 run scorers with 288 at an average of 32. Denesh Ramdin was also among top 10 with 272 runs at 34 and a strike rate of 123.

Hope's efforts quelled some questions about his scoring rate, but other middle order options such as Rovman Powell (strike rate 162), Kieron Pollard (159.4), Shimron Hetmyer (148.4) and Darren Bravo (131.2) were in the tournament best XI, scored more runs and had significantly better strike rates than Hope (except for Bravo). Plus there is veteran ODI middle order batsman Marlon Samuels in the wings.

Ramdin is a more natural player in the middle/lower-order role alongside all-rounders such as Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite. He also has the added fillip of strong captaincy credentials which he will get a further chance to display during the Super50 when he will lead Trinidad & Tobago.

The selection dilemma here is whether Hope, who like Holder won't play the Super50 because of the India Tests, can remain the ODI keeper if Ramdin and all those other batsmen replicate their CPL form in the domestic tournament.

3. The status of Marlon Samuels

The most high profile absentee in CPL 2018 was veteran middle order batsman Marlon Samuels.

Although he is an incumbent in the ODI team, the aforementioned form shown by Hetmyer, Powell, Pollard and Darren Bravo, would have created a headache for the selectors. Samuels will certainly need a strong Super50 tournament to regain his ODI spot.

If he does, the hard decision will have to be made whether the Windies need two 38-year-olds in their top four in Samuels and Gayle. Or will the difficult call be made to promote the young stars ahead of Samuels?

4. Sunil Narine's spin bowling support

Sunil Narine hasn't played much 50-over cricket for the West Indies since October 2016 due to issues with his action and past intransigent Windies board selection policies. During his absence from the ODI team, offspinner Ashley Nurse and legspinner Devendra Bishoo rotated for the main slow bowler role.

However both of them were below par in the CPL to compound the fact that neither have produced a compelling case that they were ODI class spinners. Bishoo especially while he has been solid in Tests, hasn't been able to give the 50-over team the same leg/wrist spin cutting edge that other top nations have with bowlers such as Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Adil Rashid, Rashid Khan, Ish Sodhi, Imran Tahir and Shadab Khan.

The emergence of left-arm spinner Khary Pierre, who was the man of match in the CPL final, should give the selectors an easy decision to immediately promote him to the ODI team.

5. Picking the best West Indies team without national bias

The West Indies cricket team being a collection of independent nations that come together to represent the Caribbean sometimes gets lost or is underappreciated in the cricket World. The reality remains that cricket is the only sport where Caribbean society comes together - you wouldn't see a West Indian football team at the World Cup or West Indies represented at the Olympics.

This year's CPL provided a sad example of this when Guyana fans unfortunately accused the Trinidad national on their team, Rayad Emrit, of selling out during a game to the Trinbago Knight Riders, thus perpetuating an insane conspiracy theory that Trinidad players on other CPL teams have been batting and bowling poorly in match scenarios to help Dwayne Bravo and TKR win CPL titles.

Meanwhile the failure of the Barbados Tridents fans and media to understand the dynamics of franchise cricket backfired on them when they moved on from experienced T20 stalwarts such as Pollard and Shoaib Malik. Instead they picked a team of Barbados-born players who were inexperienced and unproven in T20 cricket, just because they wanted a strong local presence in the team.

If the previous four points come to fruition and Holder is removed as captain, Hope as keeper, Nurse as the spin option and there are returns for the Bravo's, Narine, Pollard, Ramdin and a debut call-up for Pierre, the balance of the ODI team will be shifted to a strong Trinidad & Tobago influence from the current Barbados-led one.

In normal circumstances - and when West Indies dominated world cricket - which Island players come from has not been an issue. But in the modern age of team struggles and bad blood between board and players, insularity has crept into Caribbean cricket decision making - the sort that would make Sir Frank Worrell turn in his grave.

Therefore Courtney Browne, the chairman of selectors from Barbados, will soon have to prove whether his selection interest is more aligned with protecting his countrymen or picking the best West Indian team.

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