The ICC World Cup 2019 warm-up match between West Indies and New Zealand at Bristol was unexpectedly a high-scoring one. Batting first, West Indies amassed a colossal 421 on the board and then went on to win the game by 90 runs.
It was a comprehensive performance and showed the might of the West Indian batting once again. With the likes of Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Andre Russell, West Indies sure have a batting line up to be feared. Whether they will be able to maintain consistency and leave their imprint in the World Cup remains to be seen.
But Jason Holder’s men certainly can be the underdogs of the tournament this time. They are fearless, they enjoy their game, they are not burdened with the weight of expectations, and they surely have a batting unit that can destroy the best in the world. In the World Cup 2015, it was New Zealand who had emerged as the dark horses of the tournament. Will the 2019 event see West Indies take that tag?
Jason Holder, captaining in his second World Cup, is quietly confident of his team’s chances and is intent on just enjoying the tourney. “One thing I like coming into this tournament is that every player is in a good frame of mind. Everybody is playing with a smile on their face, and I think that’s how we play our best cricket,” said Holder to a media house recently.
“We’re fearless, we enjoy what we’re doing, and we enjoy one another’s company. I can safely say within the group we’ve got that,” he added.
Holder’s words illustrate the mindset of the team. West Indies bring a unique joie de vivre to the game and to see them excel brings great joy to every neutral cricket fan as well. And if they can bring that quality to the fore in the World Cup 2019, then it would add vibrant and much-needed color to the tournament.
Back in March 2018, West Indies was playing Scotland in a World Cup qualifier – a match that would decide if they would qualify for the ICC World Cup next year. West Indies were tottering at one stage and had almost been knocked out, but a dubious umpiring decision saved them the blushes.
In the last six months, though, West Indies have pushed hard to play their fearless brand of cricket. They have come a long way from being the damaged and on-the-decline team. Earlier this year, they squared an ODI series against England 2-2 and then reached the finals of the tri-series in Ireland. Chris Gayle and Shai Hope, in particular, have been in terrific form. Gayle, who is playing his last World Cup and final ODI tournament, would be keen to go out with a bang. Then there is Andre Russell – the most destructive lower-order batsman in world cricket at the moment. Russell is the X-Factor for the West Indies and his incredible ability to swat sixes and fours against any bowler might well be the turnaround for West Indies in this World Cup.
One hopes that the West Indies does manage to surprise a few big teams this World Cup 2019. They have been on the decline for far too long. And though they might not be able to reach the glory days of the 70s, they can certainly bring their unique dynamical color to the event.