After all the talk of the death of one day cricket, the world cup hasn’t really had the kind of build up that it used to have. Teams have started resting key players in one day games, preserving them for tests. This is the cup that matters and teams will suddenly be playing with their full strength line ups, which looks irregular!
I’ll start off with the West Indies and their chances.
I have seen Devon Smith in tests and he looks least likely to get a single game. Barath and Gayle take the opening slots and that is a fair opening combination against any attack. Barath has to feel home very soon and he has the cushion of Gayle at the other end. Chris has played some very determined knocks of high temperament in tests recently and that’s how he needs to play in all their games. He cannot be swashbuckling in each and every innings. His bowling adds huge balance to the side and he’s not a bad bowling option in the powerplays. In case of an injury to one of the openers, Chanderpaul should take the spot and not Smith. And if Marlon Samuels was available fit and playing in the West Indies, he could have been a better bet in the squad, in place of Smith.
The other options for the top order were Wavell Hinds, Travis Dowlin, Dale Richards and Runako Morton but they are clearly lagging behind Barath.
I’ll pick Sarwan, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo and Keiron Pollard to make the bulk of the runs in 35-40 overs. Gayle and Barath must make the first 15 overs their own. Apart from Sarwan and I don’t know how well Darren Barvo will adjust to the conditions, this is still a middle order that you can run through. A poor start will severely cripple their chances in any game. Chanderpaul plays only if one out of the two Bravos are in awful form. That will be my gamble but I don’t think they’ll pick Darren ahead of Chanderpaul. Finally, think they will sideline Sarwan and pick both! I wouldn’t advise that. Sarwan is too classy to be left out. He’s going to play a huge role if West Indies are going to enter the last four. West Indies have India, South Africa, England and Bangladesh in their group and Pollard and Bravo are going to be very handy against England and may be India. All the left arm spinners from Bangladesh are going to be a pain and so will Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel prove to be.
The key in tournaments like these will be feeling home to the general Indian conditions as quickly as possible and then gelling as a unit. These are very simple and commonly used terms but work like magic to the side’s success. Look at England. They didn’t have a great side. They got accustomed to the Australian conditions and most of them are good friends off the field. Look at how comprehensive they were in the Ashes last month. That kind of a team is going to do well in this World Cup.
Back to the middle order, Lendl Simmons, Brendan Nash, Narsingh Deonarine and Dwayne Smith would have been other serious contenders. I am a big fan of Simmons. He’s just too good to be wasted like this. I’d love to see him push for a place in the eleven in all the formats, especially tests and one days. I remember Dwayne Smith’s sweet hitting last season. Add to that his useful little dibbly dobblys and he is way better an option than Darren Sammy. Sammy, the skipper! In a seam bowling line up of Roach, Rampaul, Bravo and Pollard in India, Sammy is the biggest liability. I am pretty sure he’s going to be of very little use in this World Cup. They are having him for his spirit, it seems. That’s how sorry the state of West Indies cricket is. And the fellow is also their test captain.
Wicket keeper. Andre Fletcher is perhaps too inexperienced for the World Cup now. Should he keep working hard, he should be the automatic choice for the next World Cup. Dinesh Ramdin has been irritating them enough. They have gone for Carlton Baugh. He has some experience but they had no good choices really. It’ll be a bonus if he simply keeps well. Given the status they were in for the last few years, they had no planning whatsoever for the World Cup. They could have done well giving a lot more exposure to Fletcher but they had too much of hopes pinned on Ramdin.
Kemar Roach is the best fast bowler in the West Indies and is a simple pick. Rampaul has done well in the slog overs and he’s been quite consistent. They have rewarded his hard work. I won’t complain but I am searching for Gavin Tonge. Tonge is quite similar to Munaf Patel and is a very disciplined bowler. He could have been a brilliant partner for Roach. Jerome Taylor is the other option and I think he’s out only because of injury. Some amount of planning would have helped him stay cautious and fit for a big tournament like this. I don’t see Andre Russel getting too many chances as Roach, Sammy, Rampaul and Benn are certainties. This makes things tough for even second specialist spinner Nikita Miller. Russel could play only if one of the other seamers get injured. In a pitch assisting spinners, I would want both Benn and Miller along with Gayle. So where do I fit Miller? Drop Rampaul will be the option because, again, Sammy is the bloody captain.
Benn has been too good and is one of the finest spinners in the world. He has got well stuck into that not very conventional action but he’s really good. He and Roach lead their attack and have to take care of the powerplays. Some of the North Indian venues will have dew coming in the evenings. That will rule out Miller. Otherwise, Rampaul could be dropped for Miller. Roach, Bravo and Pollard and Sammy are enough seaming options. The only bowler I will miss big is Tonge. Shane Shillingford comes only after Miller in the one day format. Tino Best and David Bernard were other names. I haven’t seen much of Best but I believe he is potentially better than Rampaul. Rampaul has been a regular in the team of late and it’s not bad to have Rampaul when you’re playing Sammy, and as captain.
Generally, the four to miss out in the available squad should be Chanderpaul, Russel, Miller and Devon Smith. Chanderpaul is too big a name to be here but I’ll take that gamble. This is playing for the ultimate glory.
If they can pull off one win against England, South Africa or India, they are surely into the last eight. Bangladesh are going to be very serious opponents to the West Indies. They’ve exceeded expectations if they are playing the semifinals.