06 Jun 2019
Gone are the days when West Indies would be favourites to win the World Cup. Gone are the days when batsmen would fear facing West Indian bowlers, the way they did in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Also gone are the days, when their batting line-up was filled with celebrated names. But, one thing that hasn’t changed is – they play their game with the same Caribbean flair that can take the game away from any opposition. For West Indian fans who have seen the team right at the top, it might have felt absolutely ridiculous for the team to qualify for the World Cup. However, don’t be surprised if they make it to the semi-finals. West Indies may have seemed weak a couple of years ago. But, since then, they have a team that looks well settled. Most of the players have played together for a while now, and know each other’s games inside-out. Jason Holder has captained the side pretty well, and the return of Chris Gayle and Andre Russell has boosted a batting line-up with some consistent performers like Shai Hope, Evin Lewis and Darren Bravo. It’s probably the bowling department they’d want some consistency in. The Windies have some experience and youth, but don’t necessarily have that one bowler who falls in the league of the Bumrahs, Rabadas or Tahirs. From the Rajasthan Royals squad, we have a gentle giant who is part of the Windies squad. Oshane Thomas – Matches: 9, Wickets: 15, Balls/Wicket: 23, Best Figures: 5/21 Oshane Thomas is quite young in international cricket. He made his ODI debut in October 2018 against India. In that series, Oshane bowled Dhawan in both the matches he played. He grabbed attention with his pace and the bounce he generated. OT put in some more impressive performances in Bangladesh. In his second game in Dhaka, he claimed figures of 3/54. The best though, was yet to come for the tall and stocky fast bowler. During the last ODI he played, Oshane bowled a spell that dismantled England’s middle-order, and helped West Indies bowl them out for just 113. He picked his maiden 5-fer in ODIs, and it took him just 31 balls to do so. His performances in the first six months for West Indies proved enough for the selectors to name him in West Indies’ World Cup squad. Oshane had a very good stint in the Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL) with Rajasthan Royals as well. As a Royal, Oshane bowled some economic spells and was among the wickets as well. Oshane has the knack of bowling in the mid-140s with envious consistency. West Indies have experienced bowlers in the form of Kemar Roach and Jason Holder. Their spinners may not have the international experience that some of the other teams’ tweakers do, but they have played enough white-ball cricket in their careers. West Indies’ most experienced player, Chris Gayle is playing his fifth ODI World Cup. Every time he faces criticism and fans think he is done, Gayle answers with a gigantic knock and with silencing style. This could well be his final World Cup for West Indies, and who know, might even retire after the tournament. Gayle says he continues to play for his fans. A lot will depend on the Universe Boss if West Indies have to make it to the final four. Another man who holds the key for the Windies is Vivo IPL’s MVP – Andre Russell. He can contribute with both bat and ball, but it is the former that everyone will be watching closely. In their warm-up game against New Zealand, the Windies raced to 421 runs. With the kind of power-hitters in their batting order, no ground in England is large enough. Bowlers could have their work cut out against them. West Indies were knocked out of the 2015 World Cup when Martin Guptill scored a marvelous double century in the quarter-final. From then until last year, cricket in the Caribbean was clouded by contract issues between players and the WICB, but the team has risen since then to qualify for the World Cup. West Indies may be underdogs on paper, but if they get on a roll early on in the tournament, they could set the cat among the pigeons for many teams. Watch out for the calypso flavour right through the World Cup.