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by Saksham Mishra & Cricket World Wednesday 5 June 2019
Well, I don't want to be the one who says, I told you so, but I can't help but tell you exactly that. In fact, it remains the opinion of a lot of cricket experts that West Indies can turn out to be the real dark horses this time around. Even during the 2019 ICC World Cup opening ceremony, the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Anil Kumble put their money behind West Indies making it to the semifinals.
After their dismal returns since the last World Cup, many would have sidelined the team and not given them a chance, but the way the team has been shaping up over the last couple of years, especially with the return of their stars Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis and Andre Russell, they are a formidable unit, which you can discount, at your own peril.
Years of wilderness It was in 2014 that West Indies last won an ODI series. After their series win against Bangladesh, West Indies kept going downhill as they struggled more and more to register wins. Through all of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, the Men in Maroon only won three matches against India, two against Bangladesh, one against South Africa, one against Pakistan and one against Afghanistan. Their performances were so poor that the once feared outfit and the winner of the first two editions of the ODI World Cup had to take part in the qualifiers to make a place for themselves in the 2019 World Cup. The turnaround
It was somewhere around the end of 2018, that the pieces began to fall in place for the Caribbean unit. West Indies tied their second ODI in October 2018 against India and managed a victory in the 3rd ODI, winning by a comprehensive 43-run margin. During their tour of India, they unearthed three gems in Mr consistent Shai Hope, explosive batsman Shimron Hetmyer and express bowler Oshane Thomas. When the team toured England in February this year, the cricketing world did not have too many expectations from them. However, the calypso kings kept getting ready for the battle, like a duck who looks calm on the outside but paddles extremely hard under water. West Indies smoked 360 in their very first game against the Eoin Morgan-led side and took the match till the penultimate over. In the next match, they got the better of the famed England ODI team, beating them by 26 runs. After the third match was abandoned due to rain, England and West Indies won one match each. Veteran opener Chris Gayle scored 424 runs on his own from just four matches, with two centuries and 39 sixes. The world knew by now that West Indies will be no pushovers in the 2019 World Cup. The side has been further consolidated with the return of all-rounder Andre Russell, who lit up the IPL this year, with 510 runs and 11 wickets from 14 matches. In the only warm-up match that they played against New Zealand, the side only reiterated their confidence, slamming 421 runs, with a century from Shai Hope and fluent half-centuries from Evin Lewis and Andre Russell.
Setting the World Cup alight
If you thought that bowling was their weak link, they set the record straight in their first match of the tournament against Pakistan, dismissing them for a meager 105, within 22 overs. Their tactics of short pitch bowling was so on point that only four of the Pakistani batsmen could get into double digits. Andre Russell showed the way with the short stuff, which was well employed by Oshane Thomas. The team has all its bases covered and the more you see them, the more you realise that how big a threat they can be for any team. The Men in Maroon look front-runners for not only making it to the semifinals but seeing it through, for they have so many x-factors in their ranks that even if a couple of them click, it would be almost impossible to stop the red tide on their day.
©Cricket World 2019