“I know the right West Indies combination with a fully focused side can beat anyone on their day,” Windies interim coach Richard Pybus had said a day before his side’s fourth ODI against England.
As we speak of England’s tour of West Indies, the visitors' status of being the number 1 side was put into jeopardy by the return of form of Chris Gayle, who smashed a record 39 sixes en route to scoring 424 runs in just four innings. Ahead of the much-awaited World Cup, the Windies' batting line-up has picked up the momentum and after a long time, they seem like an ideally poised unit with big hitters even down the order.
The team has a perfect balance of experience and a young bunch of players; players who were an integral part of Windies' U-19 World Cup triumph in 2016 who have now been bumped to the senior team. The likes of Shimron Heytmer, Keemo Paul and Alzarri Joseph played in that World Cup for the Caribbean side, and now join the senior side alongside other youngsters like Shai Hope and Carlos Braithwaite.
Hope, in particular, remains Windies' absolute trump card. Heading into the business end of the year, the 25-year-old has delivered constant performances, which includes a ton against India in October followed by two unbeaten centuries against Bangladesh in December.
The utmost thing before bulging into all these praises though remains the leadership of Jason Holder. Having been named captain early in his career, the then inexperienced Holder has developed his game big time and so has his captaincy. Apart from being a beaming all-rounder, the fact remains that he understands the game much better than most of his colleagues.
The bowling unit, on the other hand, has been complimenting their colleagues quite decently as well. The power unit of Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas have provided some much-needed pace to the bowling attack, bringing back some good-old memories. However, the spinning department remains a missing jigsaw. With their inability of picking wickets in the middle overs while also leaking a major chunk of runs, their spinners Bishoo and Nurse have proved out to be liabilities.
One might look upto Sunil Narine as a potential fix for the World Cup, but given the fact that his last ODI came in 2016 coupled with his bowling action complications, he remains Windies' last resort.
The positive though remains in form of an experienced campaigner, Kemar Roach, who daunted the English line-up by picking 18 wickets in his side's 2-1 Test series win. Owing to an injury, he was unfortunate to miss out on the ODI squad, but his name on Windies’ team sheet in World Cup is sure to haunt many batters.
There remain several issues that need a fix, but a team that has dominated this sport for nearly a quarter of a century once has figured its way of achieving the high ground again. And it couldn't have been a better time to set this rhythm.
The Windies team can well and truly be defined as one unpredictable unit, but the glaring reality is their squad boasts of real match-winners. How many times have we said to ourselves that West Indies are rising from the ashes? They have won games in the past, leading to a suggestion that a resurgence is on its way, but that revival has always failed to find its destination.
This time around though, Windies will step on with a purpose. Not to forget the fact that for a certain Universal Boss, Chris Gayle, this World Cup might be his final hurrah. So it is safe to assume this relatively young West Indies unit would be looking to build upon Gayle's glaring form; a form which has given the English bowlers a haunting memory for the rest of their lives.
But as we speak of the issues, we need to get our heads in old graves. Windies' execution in Tests and ODIs took a massive hit following the disputes between the players and the board, which surfaced during the mid-2000s. With players preferring domestic leagues over international cricket due to financial crunches, their team suffered.
Since the 2015 World Cup, this team has lagged in every way possible. The odds haven't staked in their favour, having failed to qualify for the 2017 Champions Trophy. They sit ninth in the ODI rankings, yet they managed to draw a series with the number 1 ODI team. It speaks volume. Remember, we are talking about a team which hasn't won a single bilateral series since 2014.
But as it seems, a middle ground has been engineered by the board which has seen the likes of Darren Bravo and Chris Gayle making a comeback. And who knows, this bright light might also attract Darren Sammy and Dwayne Bravo ahead of the tournament.
You can always dream big, right?
Windies have had their hardships in the past, but as they say; Rome wasn't built in a day.