Opinion: West Indies World Cup cricket team looks solid on paper, but will they fold?

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Photo credit: India Today
Chris Gayle will play in his fifth and final World Cup for West Indies. Will he ride off with a trophy?

The West Indies cricket team on Wednesday unveiled its preliminary 15-player squad for the upcoming Cricket World Cup in England and Wales. And although the strength of a team is ultimately determined by the strength of its opponents, the Windies lineup looks exceptionally solid.

The newly restructured Windies management panel chose a squad that includes just about every element necessary for a championship: experience, leadership, power hitting, young talent, fast bowling, medium-pace bowling and spin bowling. It’s only a pity that spinner Sunil Narine is not healthy. His inclusion would have solidified the lineup even further.

The Windies squad for the World Cup, which runs May 30 to July 14, will be led by captain Jason Holder, an all-rounder whose passion and leadership will be vital. The team also boasts power hitters Chris Gayle (in his World Cup farewell), Andre Russell, Shimron Hetmyer and Carlos Brathwaite. The supporting batsmen will be Shai Hope, Darren Bravo, Evin Lewis, Fabian Allen and Nicholas Pooran. Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach should be a formidable fast-bowling tandem. Oshane Thomas, Ashley Nurse and “salute man” Sheldon Cottrell should boost the bowling attack.

There were some notable omissions, including all-rounders Kieron Pollard and Marlon Samuels and spinner Davendra Bishoo. The Windies can still make changes to the lineup before the May 23 final cut-off.

“There were a number of tough calls we had to make to settle on our squad of 15, including ensuring there was some continuity in the side,” selector Robert Haynes told Cricinfo.com. “But we believe we have chosen a strong squad of players taking into consideration . . . experience, fitness, team balance, current form and conditions.”

Health, of course, will be a major decider for the Windies’ championship quest, especially for Gabriel and Roach, who have a history of injuries. Also, Gabriel is coming off a suspension stemming from an altercation with England’s Joe Root in February in St. Lucia in which the fast bowler allegedly made an anti-gay remark. Gabriel should be firing on all cylinders in an attempt to prove himself after the embarrassing ban.

The team looks terrific on paper, but as the saying goes, the game is not played on paper. But I have always maintained that in any team sport, one of the keys to success is the squad must have players who keep opposing coaches and managers up at night. The team must have proven, dangerous players who scare opponents. This Windies team has several of those elements. It’s hard to imagine any 11-player squad selected from this group in which all of them fail at the same time. My optimism remains cautious because other squads are strong as well. But this one looks to be one of the best assembled by the West Indies in some time. A World Cup trophy would be the ultimate parting gift for the legendary Gayle.

A look at the West Indies team’s result in every Cricket World Cup:

1975 (Won)1979 (Won)1983 (Lost in final)
1987 (First round)1992 (First round)1996 (Semifinals)
1999 (First round)2003 (First round)2007 (Super 8)
2011 (Quarterfinals)2015 (Quarterfinals)2019 (To be decided)

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