West Indies cricket’s golden age is long gone. Once a world-conquering machine, the Caribbean outfit has slowly drifted into mediocrity. In 2019, the two-time world champions start a World Cup campaign feeling privileged to be part of the showpiece.
For the first time in their history, the Windies had to go through a qualifying campaign. It was hardly smooth sailing for the Calypso Kings in the qualifiers as they scraped their way into the World Cup, qualifying as runners-up.
Their prospects have looked brighter since with impressive performances against England as new faces have risen to the fore. Jason Holder’s team is the third youngster outfit in the tournament with an average age of 28. Only Chris Gayle is above the age of 31 in a side that has eight players below 30 and four below 25.
In the last decade, the Windies have always possessed match-winners in their ranks but consistency in One-Day Internationals has been in scant supply. Despite being ranked eighth in the world, an improving Windies side are dangerous opposition again, but whether they transform into a consistent winning unit remains to be seen.
History at the World Cup
It took the world, three World Cups and ten games to inflict the first defeat on the mighty West Indies in the showpiece event. Such was the dominance of Clive Lloyd’s team that their first reverse in the World Cup in 1983 against India was seen as just a minor blip.
It did prove to be one as the winners in 1975 and 1979 recovered to march to their third-straight final only to be shocked again by the same opponent in the final.
The Windies have since never been the same force in World Cups with the team reaching the semi-finals only once in 1996. Four first round exits and two quarter-final appearances are indicative of the mediocrity that gripped the Carribean outfit on either side of the turn of the century.
Only twice since 1983 have the Windies won more matches than they have lost in their World Cup campaign – 1999 and 2003. In both those editions, they failed to go past the first round.
Meanwhile, the Calypso Kings have enjoyed success in the T20 format, winning the 2012 and 2016 World Cups, but in the 50-over format there’s been a lot to be desired.
West Indies' history at the World Cup
|1975||P:5, W:5, L:0||West Indies beat Australia by 17 runs in the final to win the maiden World Cup|
|1979||P:5, W:4, L:0, NR:1||West Indies hammered England by 92 runs in the final to defend their title. The only game they didn't win was against Sri Lanka which was abandoned without a ball being bowled|
|1983||P:8, W:6, L:2||West Indies lost to India by 43 runs in the final to concede their crown. Their other loss in the tournament also came against India|
|1987||P:6, W:3, L:3||West Indies bowed out in the group stage after finishing third in their Group behind England and Pakistan|
|1992||P:8, W:4, L:4||West Indies finished sixth in the league stage to bow out. They lost four games to England, Pakistan, New Zealand and Australia|
|1996||P:7. W:3, L:4||West Indies lost to Australia in the semi-finals by 5 runs|
|1999||P:5, W:3, L:2||West Indies exited at the group stage after finishing fourth in their group behind New Zealand on net run rate|
|2003||P:6, W:3, L:2, NR:1||West Indies were knocked out at the group stage after finishing fifth in their group|
|2007||P:10, W:5, L:5||Playing as hosts, West Indies qualified for Super 8s as group winners but failed to advance to the semi-finals after winning just two out of the seven games in the second round|
|2011||P:7. W:3, L:4||West Indies lost to Pakistan by 10 wickets in the quarter-finals|
|2015||P:7. W:3, L:4||West Indies lost to Pakistan by 143 runs in the quarter-finals|
Since 2015 World Cup
After being knocked out by New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup, the Windies have been on a disastrous run in ODIs — winning just 19 out of the 67 matches played. With 42 losses in the same period, they have failed to win a single series in these four years.
The poor form saw West Indies drop out of the top 8 in ICC’s rankings for ODI teams, thus failing to qualify for the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy and having to play qualifiers to make the cut for the 2019 edition.
There have been promising signs of late, especially in the 2-2 drawn series against England. The numbers also show definite signs of improvement by the Windies in recent times with 12 out of their 19 wins since the 2015 World Cup coming in the last two years.
Thus heading into the 2019 World Cup, a West Indies side bolstered by the return of Chris Gayle and Andre Russel would feel they can do more than just make up the numbers.
Top 5 batsmen since 2015 World Cup
|Player||Matches [Innings]||Runs [50s/100s]||Average/Strike-rate|
|Shai Hope||54||2247 [10/6]||51.06/76.35|
|Jason Holder||62||1257 [6/0]||27.32/93.52|
|Evin Lewis||35||1010 [3/2]||32.58/82.31|
|Marlon Samuels||33||975 [5/2]||31.45/78.43|
|Chris Gayle||20||930 [4/1]||48.94/114.11|
Top 5 bowlers since 2015 World Cup
|Player||Matches [Innings]||Wickets [5-fors/4-fors]||Average/Strike Rate|
|Jason Holder||62||75 [1/2]||35.29/38.6|
|Ashley Nurse||50 ||49 [0/2]||41.61/46.9|
|Carlos Brathwaite||29||31 [1/1]||39.87/43|
|Shannon Gabriel||22||31 [0/0]||31/33|
|Alzarri Joseph||16||24 [1/1]||34.08/31.5|
Keys to qualifying for the semi-finals
West Indies sides of yesteryears boasted of lethal pace attacks. The tradition continued from one generation to another until a lean period hit the assembly line in the past two decades.
However, the selection for the 2019 World Cup shows that the Windies believe they once again have the pace attack to deliver the goods in England and Wales.
As many as eight members of the current West Indies squad are capable of producing genuine pace, thus providing Holder with plenty of options. The experienced Kemar Roach is expected to lead the attack, well supported by Shannon Gabriel – returning to the ODI side after a year — Oshane Thomas and Holder himself. Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite are very handy alternatives.
Windies’ Achilles Heel is the spin department with Ashley Nurse and young Fabian Allen the only recognised options. In an age where spinners play a key role in ODI cricket, especially in assisting the pace attack, the Carribean side could be found wanting on this front. Nurse who is their second-highest wicket-taker in the last five years will have to produce his best to balance the bowling attack.
The attack, however, rests heavily on the fast bowlers who will have to produce and sustain good pace to cause batsmen any problems on what are expected to be batting-friendly wickets in the United Kingdom.
One major issue that has plagued West Indies over the past decade is consistency, especially in the ODI format. In their last five innings, West Indies have registered scores of 338 and 381, but have also struggled to reach 270 in the other two innings, all of which were played in very similar conditions.
Experienced players like Darren Bravo who have been guilty of not doing justice to their abilities would need to fire to add solidity to their middle-order and not put too much pressure on the top order and the lower middle-order.
Shai Hope is arguably West Indies’ best batsman and also the one in the best possible form. The wicket-keeper batsman has scored five centuries in the last one year and could be the difference between a semi-final spot and an early exit for the West Indies.
X-Factor of CWC 2019
Almost every player in the West Indian side can claim to have an X-factor, but there are few players in world cricket at this moment who have a bigger impact on games than Andre Russell.
The all-rounder was in explosive form in the just-concluded Indian Premier League and has the ability to dismantle reputed bowling attacks at will. He will be tasked with a finisher’s role in that line-up and on his day, he can have a massive impact late in the innings.
Russell’s presence in the batting line-up won’t allow opposition bowling attacks to breathe easy.
With the ball, the all-rounder boasts a pretty reassuring ODI record having bagged 65 wickets in 52 games. He has five four-wicket hauls in the 50-over format.
The 30-year-old’s ODI career has been wretched initially by a doping ban, and later by injuries. Russell thus would be hungry to resurrect his record in the 50-over format and there could be no better platform to do so than the World Cup.
Jason Holder (c), Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Nicholas Pooran, Oshane Thomas, Shai Hope (wk), Shimron Hetmyer, Fabien Allen, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Ashley Nurse
|Pakistan||Nottingham||Friday, May 31||3 pm|
|Australia||Nottingham||Thursday, June 6||3 pm|
|South Africa||Southampton||Monday, June 10||3 pm|
|England||Southampton||Friday, June 14||3 pm|
|Bangladesh||Taunton||Monday, June 17||3 pm|
|New Zealand||Manchester||Saturday, June 22||6 pm|
|India||Manchester||Thursday, June 27||3 pm|
|Sri Lanka||Chester-le-Street||Monday, July 1||3 pm|
|Afghanistan||Leeds||Thursday, July 4||3 pm|
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