A Storm In The Caribbean: Windies Selectors Have Tough Choices To Make

Rum-fuelled cocktails and rum punches seem to be the flavour of Caribbean beach parties throughout the year, but none of that enthusiasm is matched when it comes to the woeful year Windies cricket has had. Their brand of cricket, no matter where they played, justified why they missed out on a Champions Trophy berth and direct qualification for the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

With the World Cup Qualifiers ahead in March, many believe West Indies will make it to the 10-team showpiece event that will be held in England & Wales in 2019, solely due to the reasoning that they will be up against the “minnows” of International cricket. It is not as easy as it may seem as teams like Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland have beaten the Windies in the past, while Scotland came close to beating them in a 2015 World Cup warm-up fixture. “Inconsistency” is the word that aptly describes the state of West Indies cricket. Having lost to New Zealand 3-0 in ODIs and 2-0 in T20Is , their margin of losses are indicative of the fact that they came nowhere close to staging a fight. They often let the opponents bully them ruthlessly as demonstrated by their 4-0 loss to England in similar fashion in September. They might make it to the World Cup but are they good enough to compete?
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The Windies Selectors have a lot of thinking to do. Evin Lewis , Shai Hope and Jason Holder are a certainty in the ODI team but how the rest of the squad shapes up remains to be seen. In the bowling department, they need pacers who can bowl fast with decent bounce. Alzarri Joseph, who picked up a five-fer in the fourth ODI vs England, is young, promising and can intimidate the batsmen with pace and bounce. Test-incumbent Shannon Gabriel has a smooth action and can regularly clock 150 kmph. Although, he needs to work on his accuracy as his consistency with lines & lengths are often found wanting. Sheldon Cottrell is another option they might want to give a longer rope to. He’s a feisty character with decent pace. He recently picked up five wickets across the two ODIs he played in vs NZ in December, in what was, otherwise, a lacklustre bowling exhibition by them. Rayad Emrit and Rovman Powell can be their seam bowling all rounders.
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Spin bowling, surprisingly, is an area of concern for the men from Caribbean. Is the duo of Ashley Nurse and Devendra Bishoo the best they have? Probably not. In the absence of Sunil Narine, a wily left arm spinner like Nikita Miller can be an ideal choice as a frontline spinner. He’s been bagging five-fers galore captaining Jamaica in the domestic tournaments. He can mix up his pace and add pressure on the batsmen. As for a spinning all-rounder, uncapped Rahkeem Cornwall, who is widely touted as the next “big” thing to emerge from West Indies, should be given a go. He can pack a punch with his hard-hitting exploits to go along with his gentle off spin. Nurse’s off spin is too predictable and his batting cannot change the course of a match. He’s just not threating enough, either with the ball or with the bat. Cornwall warrants selection on the basis of his success against touring sides like England, Sri Lanka and India. He scored a crucial 59 against England XI to salvage West Indies A’s innings and backed it up with respectable figures of 1-39. He also picked up a six-fer against Sri Lanka A in a four-day fixture. When India toured Caribbean in 2016, his victims included Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli.

Now looking at the batting front, along with Lewis, somebody like Johnson Charles or Andre Fletcher can open instead of waiting for someone like Gayle to tee off. His batting is often erratic, much like the rains in India. Marlon Samuels, Chadwick Walton (whose form in the Caribbean Premier League has been exceptional) and Shai Hope can form the middle order followed by Rovman Powell and/or Rahkeem Cornwall. West Indies may not have much to choose from but they have to make some smart choices to, at least, seem incisive. Fitness of players then becomes important as they constantly lose some or the other player to injury.

While people talk of ignominy, the current crop of Windies cricketers cannot match the glorious teams of the past that had a mix of barbaric fast bowlers and flawless batting stars. They may have a long way to go but they should not be written off and there is hope for a resurrection in Windies cricket.

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