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Confessions of a World Cup addict: can West Indies turn water into wine?

We’d love nine wins!

But six wins and three losses would be enough; with that round robin tally, Jason Holder and his 14 acolytes can feed the millions of West Indian mouths which have long hungered for World Cup cricketing success.

That would be a miracle, you say? And so?

Oh, ye of little faith! Have we not had miracles before?

Photo: West Indies bowler Carlos Brathwaite (second from left) celebrates with captain Darren Sammy (top) and Chris Gayle after the wicket of England’s Jos Buttler (far right) during the World T20 cricket tournament final match at The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata on 3 April 2016.
Carlos Brathwaite sensationally hit four successive sixes off Ben Stokes in the last over as the West Indies stunned England by four wickets to win the World Twenty20 title.
(Copyright AFP2016/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

Rememberest thou not September 2005 and the Champions Trophy in London?

Hast thou forgotten the T20 finals in Sri Lanka in October 2012 and in India in April 2016? Didst not Darren Sammy’s teams twice walk on water?

So miracles, we know, are possible; the relevant question is this: are they likely? What have WI done to make it probable that we’ll again get an answer to our silent prayers in 2019?

In Tests and ODIs at least, WI have contrived to lose the winning habit.

In the Test arena, after dominating the rest of the world for the better part of two decades up until 1995, WI have scarcely been able to see our way.

And after winning in 1975 and 1979 and losing in 1983, we have not been able to get to another World Cup final.

Against all the odds, Clive Lloyd’s 1983 world-beating champions came away from the World Cup final at Lord’s empty-handed. Confident that they would make light work of Kapil Dev’s unfancied Indians, they had to settle for a half-picked duck; the bowlers came up trumps, dismissing India for a mere 183. The batsmen, with deservedly huge reputations, simply could not hang India’s jack.

As late as at the end of the Indian innings, the hat-trick loomed, title number three seemed in the bag.

But it would have to wait…

…at least 36 years for Holder and his disciples to make atonement for that cardinal sin.

Make that 40 years. Despite Tuesday’s 91-run win over New Zealand, which have probably sent West Indian hopes shy high, barring the aforementioned miracle, title number three simply is not on.

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder.

The optimists will wish, hope, pray, believe even. WI realists listen to the factors flagged in Sammy’s important post-victory statement in 2016 and feel the pain in the pit of their stomachs.

Sammy revealed that his troops had had to choose between the Davel and the deep maroon sea. They did. Spectacularly.

He pointed to the role played by outside forces (“We felt disrespected by our board, Mark Nicholas described our team as a team with no brains. All these things before the tournament just brought this team together”). He remarked on the wonderful team spirit, the unity, the single-mindedness that had fired his unfavoured men (“Nobody gave us a chance but every game somebody stepped up and took responsibility”) and taken them over the line.

He praised his “15 match-winners, [including] Carlos [Brathwaite]” for their “ability to just put all those adversities aside and to come out and play this type of cricket.” And he also praised “the heads of CARICOM, who supported the team with emails and phone calls throughout the tournament.

But he castigated the WICB, expressing disappointment that he was “yet to hear from our own cricket board.”

We have, hallelujah! slain that Cameron devil. New CWI President Ricky Skerritt has pledged to throw his own and his board’s full weight behind the cricketers. So, as it is asked here, this question has to be asked: can gratitude work like hatred, driving players to be better than their best?

Or put another way, if the only enemy is the other nine teams they will face on the field, will this bunch of underdog maroons permit Holder to knit them into a united fighting force, anxious and able to show the world they are not to be written off or even taken lightly?

Photo: West Indies batsman Chris Gayle (centre) hits out against the Pakistan bowling during their 2015 Cricket World Cup Group B match in Christchurch on 21 February 2015.
(Copyright AFP 2017/William West)

Will Chris Gayle, at 39, still be able to boss the universe, making light work one last time of the best One-day cricket’s big sawatees and peewats alike can throw at him? An aggregate of over 10,000 ODI runs (including one double-century) with a strike rate of 87.14 says he has the pedigree. A total of 614 sixes and 1093 fours says he has the power.

Will he, in the winter of his years, manage the sustained rather than periodic production needed to push Holder’s side past the finish line? Or will a one-swallow summer be his swansong?

Will Andre Russell, after fabulous performances in the 2018 CPL and the subsequent IPL, reproduce those heroics here at the highest level, with bat if not with ball?

Will Shimron ‘Hara-kiri’ Hetmyer finally come of age, replacing his ‘promising’ tag with ‘accomplished’?

Will Holder find the go-to man so manifestly unavailable when AB de Villiers took a liking to WI fare in Sydney four years ago? Four years on, will Holder step up and be that go-to man?

Will Brathwaite, three years on, finally get the Eden Gardens monkey off his back, banishing once and for all the f-words that have dogged him for three years, F-L-U-K-E and F-L-A-S-H-in-the-pan?

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman Carlos Brathwaite (left) prepares to attack a delivery by TKR captain Dwayne Bravo during CPL action at the Queen’s Park Oval on 11 August 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Will any of Fabian Allen, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach and Oshane Thomas prove tough enough when the going gets tough?

Many questions. Here’s a statement: this ODI team has no winning habit to lose. They know they will win a lot of hearts if they manage to bring home the World Cup bacon. To do so, they must somehow contrive, starting tomorrow, to make it through the group stage.

WI are fierce fighters in finals; six wins and three losses would fuel our fantasy.

Against all the odds, therefore, Holder, Gayle and company will be hoping to once more, like in 2016, put water in English eyes. And, like in 1975 and 1979, come July 14 at Lord’s, they will hope to be the ones hoisting on high the handsome World Cup trophy while spraying bubbly liberally into the air at Lord’s.

But do WI really have a prayer?

WI fixtures

May 31 vs Pakistan, Nottingham, 5.30am

June 6 vs Australia, Nottingham, 5.30am

June 10 vs South Africa, Southampton, 5.30am

June 14 vs England, Southampton, 5.30am

June 17 vs Bangladesh, Taunton, 5.30am

June 22 vs New Zealand, Manchester, 8.30am

June 27 vs India, Manchester, 5.30am

July 1 vs Sri Lanka, Durham, 5.30am

July 4 vs Afghanistan, Leeds, 5.30am

Photo: Guyana Amazon Warriors batsman Shimron Hetmyer (right) plays at a delivery during 2018 CPL action against TKR.
(Copyright CPL T20 Ltd 2018)

Semi-finals

July 9 Qualifier 1 vs Qualifier 4, Old Trafford, 5.30am

July 11 Qualifier 2 vs Qualifier 3, Edgbaston, 5.30am

Final 

July 14 Semi-final winners 1 vs Semi-final winners 2, Lord’s, London, 5.30am

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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