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Cricket news - Ready Reckoner: West Indies
Why should you support them?
Because they are world cricket's most affable bad boys.
For all their failures to emulate the invincible ensemble from the late 70s and the 80s in the two longer formats of the game, they have been a force to reckon with in the shortest, newest - as their two titles in last three T20 WCs suggest. Most men in this team know what it is to lift an ICC trophy, but they've done it while constantly being at loggerheads with the board and haven't been afraid of calling a spade a spade.
With a change of guard at the WICB, West Indies arrive in the UK with the sort of backing from home that they have received in recent times - the strongest squad picked on current form alone, keeping aside the players' history of run-ins with the management. The transitioning phase in West Indies' ODI unit may have stretched beyond what might be considered reasonable, leading to inconsistency that has plagued them for the longest time, but that doesn't make West Indies any less of a threat at the biggest stage.
So, what's their game plan?
West Indies pack an assortment of the most sought-after T20 players in their line-up - the proven ones like Chris Gayle and Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite, and the up and coming ones like Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer, who owned the 2018 edition of Caribbean Premier League. There's a flip side to it, that they're T20 stars, but on their day each one is capable of turning the tables on the opposition almost single-handedly. Gayle, the 10000-run veteran, is lining up for one last hurrah in the ODIs and don't be surprised if he puts up a grand show one last time. Russell is coming off a dream run in the IPL and the young Hetmyer already has four ODI hundreds to his name in just 18 months of international cricket.
Lack of a well-rounded bowling unit, especially in the spin department, will put West Indies at a disadvantage against some of the stronger opponents and, therefore, their strength lies in their brutal batting forces as they'll look to outscore teams in run-fests.
Which player should you get excited about?
Andre Russell, who else?
He might not have played an ODI game for nearly a year now but his humbling numbers in the format do not reveal the true extent of the threat he poses for the opponents. With the highest strike rate (204.82) and number of sixes hit (52) in the edition, and a third-best runs' tally and tournament average, Russell finished IPL 2019 as the MVP of the season.
If someone in the West Indies management was making notes, of his increasing penchant for holding one end up while not compromising on the big hits, we might even see Russell batting slightly up in the order than the usual.
At this moment there's no stopping Dre Russ, except for his troublesome knee that, in all likelihood, will prevent him from bowling his full quota of overs.
Which of the fixtures should you not miss?
The opening round against Pakistan, in Nottingham. This game will set the tone for their three tough games to follow in the first half of the nine-game round-robin stage. It's a venue West Indies are going to relish playing at the most given the power-hitters they will likely pack their eleven with.
Also, the last one, against Afghanistan. The fate of one or both the team may already have been decided by that time, but Afghanistan managed to pull one over the Caribbean side in the qualifying tournament and West Indies might be keen on revenge, and especially so if it turns out to be their last game at the World Cup.
What are their chances?
West Indies are certainly looking better than what they have in most recent editions. They are no pre-tournament favourites - far from it, in fact - but they did give two of the pre-tournament favourites - India (away) and England (home) - a run for their money in the most recent bilateral series. That said, they'll have to have a remarkable run, up top to make it to the final-four, given that a tough opening half doesn't allow them a lot of margin for error.
Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Fabian Allen, Andre Russell, Jason Holder (C), Carlos Brathwaite, Nicholas Pooran, Shai Hope, Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas, Shannon Gabriel, Sheldon Cotrell
May 31: v Pakistan, Nottingham [D]
June 6: v Australia, Nottingham [D]
June 10: v South Africa, Southampton [D]
June 14: v England, Southampton [D]
June 17: v Bangladesh, Taunton [D]
June 22: v New Zealand, Manchester [D/N]
June 27: v India, Manchester [D]
July 1: v Sri Lanka, Durham [D]
July 4: v Afghanistan, Leeds [D]
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