Did you see Monday evening’s World Cup programme or last week’s promo for it? The one in which ex-WI captain Darren Sammy matter-of-factly asserts that ‘West Indies are winning the World Cup’? I mean, really matter-of-factly. As if he were saying ‘The sun rises in the east.’
Promo and programme were obviously recorded before the start of the Tri-Nation series in Ireland. Or, at the very latest, after the first match in which Shai Hope and John Campbell belted the Irish all around the park to set a 300-plus ODI partnership world record but before the second one in which Bangladesh embarrassed them, I mean, embarrassed us.
So one wonders what Sammy has to say now that he has seen the WI’s Tri-Nation prelims performance. One wonders what we shall hear from him after tomorrow’s showing in the final. Will the successful T20 championship side skipper have to change his tune? Will it be Stalin’s “Caribbean man” or Sparrow’s “Slave”? David Rudder’s “Here come the West Indies” or Gypsy’s “Sinking ship”? Brother Bob’s “No, woman, nah cry” or “Redemption song”? Which side will we see in Dublin, the T20-ers or the ODI-ers? The ones who keep our maroon flying high or the ones who are wont to let themselves down?
West Indies are winning the World Cup? Like Sammy, I want them to. But I want to be much more careful than he has been; I’ve been battling persistent acid reflux, the Brylcreem sandwich I had to eat after the Headingley Test in August 2017 still coming back up sometimes when I belch.
West Indies are winning the World Cup? In 2019, Sammy? Maybe but I don’t think so. The odds are very long and, as Brian Lara has pointed out, we shall need luck to scrape into the semis after the nine games of the preliminary round. That done, the odds are much better and any number can play.
On Tuesday, I watched England cruise to a 6-wkt win over Pakistan almost without breaking a sweat. Batting first, mind you, Safaraz Ahmed’s side had posted a challenging 358 on the back of an impressive 150 from opener Imam-ul-Haq. But it never looked enough.
On the weekend, a brutal 55-ball 110 from Jos Buttler had seen Eoin Morgan’s team eke out a narrow 12-run triumph to go 1-0 up in the series.
So West Indies are winning the World Cup?
Over in Ireland, Jason Holder’s men, number eight in the ICC rankings, notched two convincing victories over the hosts, including a crushing 196-run win in the first ODI. Made to look no match for the Bangladeshis in their 8-wkt defeat in the first match-up, the Caribbean Cavaliers took the field in the second with blood in their eye. It didn’t help. The side from the sub-continent, ranked only number seven in the world, romped to a second easy win by five wickets.
Shai Hope enhanced his growing reputation with almost 400 runs in four innings, including two centuries. John Campbell, not in the 15 named for England, contributed 179 to the record partnership with Hope before a back strain side-lined him. Skipper Holder (36 & 62) and Ashley Nurse (4/51 & 3/53) produced decent performances with bat and ball and the not-in-the-England-squad pair of Sunil Ambris (148) and Roston Chase (51) gave better-than-decent accounts of themselves.
No one else has so far really looked a first team player, least of all the bowlers.
West Indies are winning the World Cup?
Fabian Allen, who is one of the 15 originally selected, continues to invite the question why.
Darren Bravo looked like he would struggle, on current form, to get back into the Fatima First XI. In the 15 innings since his last ODI century for the WI against South Africa in Barbados in June 2016, he has managed 318 runs off 471 balls with just a pair of half-centuries.
Interestingly, in the first three matches of the recent drawn series against England, 126 of those runs came off 126 balls. Five innings since then have yielded 40 runs off 63 balls. Hardly a strong recommendation for a place in the middle order come the end of the month.
And yet, dare we run a line through the struggling Bravo’s name? Dare we? Let us remember that the other frontline batsmen in the 15 are Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer, consummate calypso cricketers all, equally capable of game-clinching carnage on their day and, on their off-day, of catastrophic collapse.
Sammy has a dream; I have a fear. In the World Cup line-up, there is no Larry Gomes, no Shivnarine Chanderpaul, no Jimmy Adams, no Marlon Samuels, no Brian Lara. Not a man we could count on to hold up de side.
Bruggudung. The Bajan bard Edward Kamau Brathwaite’s wonderful onomatopoeia rings hauntingly in my ear.
But, says Sammy, West Indies are winning the World Cup. Go ahead and believe that, sir! Go ahead and seek to convince others, bring them around to your way of seeing. Convince them to listen, like you, to Carlos Brathwaite’s uplifting, unforgettable four-stroke Twok! Twok! Twok! Twok! drumbeat instead of the Bruggudung, which is the funereal sum of the other Brathwaite’s three lugubrious syllables.
For now, however, I pass on the optimism; I await tomorrow’s Dublin outcome and the confirmation deadline next week Thursday.
You see, if experience has taught me any cricketing truth, it is this: whatever the circumstances, West Indies bowlers can wreak havoc with opposition line-ups—South Africa at Kensington in 1992 and England in Port-of-Spain in 1994—and West Indies batsmen can break seemingly unassailable records—a 97-ball 162, 365, 375, 400 not out, 418, 501 not out.
But they are much better at wreaking havoc with West Indies emotions and breaking West Indies hearts.