Rain to the Windies rescue
The World Cup cricket qualification is just about over, and after many days of exciting play, to some, the West Indies and Afghanistan, as predicted, are heading to England and the real contest: the World Cup of 2019.
It was, however, a great escape for the two teams: the West Indies, who were probably saved, not by their skill, but by rain; and Afghanistan, who squeezed through by virtue of Zimbabwe's surprising defeat at the hands of the United Arab Emirates.
After winning all four matches and going through the first round easily with four points, the West Indies had to fight like tigers to make it, and they did so, thanks, probably, to rain and the Duckworth/Lewis method.
After losing three games in the first round, however, to Scotland, Zimbabwe, and Hong Kong, and going into the Super Six round without a point, Afghanistan won all three matches in the Super Six round, including against the West Indies and the last match against arch-rivals Ireland, to scrape through.
The World Cup qualifying tournament brought together the two lowest-ranked Test teams, the two newest Test teams, and the six top-rated Associate teams for what proved to be an exciting and interesting tournament in which they were many, many surprises.
The two low-ranking Test teams, West Indies and Zimbabwe, and the two new Test teams, Ireland and Afghanistan, were expected to dominate the proceedings, with the Windies and Afghanistan tipped to go on to England.
There were some surprises and slip-ups, however, and after Scotland defeated Afghanistan by seven wickets, Hong Kong topped Afghanistan by the Duckworth/Lewis method, Scotland had tied with Zimbabwe, Afghanistan defeated the West Indies, the United Arab Emirates sinking Zimbabwe, and Afghanistan maintaining their dominance over Ireland, the West Indies were, probably, left to thank their lucky stars for reaching the final.
After losing to Afghanistan by three wickets in the Super Six round, and before surviving a late bid for victory by Zimbabwe, who lost by four wickets and one over, the West Indies narrowly escaped against Scotland to win what appeared their rightful spot after competing with the contenders for a place in cricket's showpiece.
A record of six victories against one loss during the tournament would suggest that it was a good outing for the West Indies.
When one remembers, however, that their opponents were the UAE, Papua New Guinea, Netherlands, and Ireland, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Scotland, even remembering the West Indies record against Afghanistan, their most recent record against Zimbabwe, and that they lost to Ireland last time out, it was not so.
In their final match against Scotland, a match which they had to win in order to qualify, the West Indies, or the Windies, almost muffed it
The West Indies, batting first, were limited to 198 and got away to a good start in the field before Scotland rallied to 125 for five off 35.2 overs when the heavens opened up.
Scotland, with 74 needed for victory and 14.2 overs or 86 deliveries still to be bowled, lost the match by five runs on the Duckworth/Lewis method.
Although Scotland could have lost the match, and probably would have lost it, the odds favoured them had the match been completed. That's the reality of the situation.
The West Indies, once cricket's acclaimed big boys, narrowly missed the final embarrassment of failing to qualify for the World Cup finals, and that from a group in which there should be little or no competition for a team that ruled the roost up to 25 years or so ago.
The West Indies, but for Evin Lewis, Marlon Samuels, Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, and to an extent Shai Hope, and the rain, would probably have been heading home in disappointment instead of looking forward to England next year.
According to president Dave Cameron and captain Holder, however, the West Indies will now prepare to win the World Cup itself.
KEEP SPIRITS HIGH
A president must, I suppose, talk the good talk, and a captain must try to keep the spirits of his players on up. Cameron and Holder, however, seem to be clutching at straws when they speak so confidently, and obviously, so hopefully, of now preparing to win the coveted trophy.
They seem to forget that what's ahead are cricket's best. The Windies will be up against teams like India, Australia, England, South Africa, and New Zealand in England next year, not teams like UAE, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, and Nepal.
Cricket, however, is a game of surprises, limited-over cricket lessens the importance of quality, and any number can play by the time England and World Cup 2019 comes around.
If the West Indies number is to pop up, however, if Cameron's and Holder's hopes, or dreams, are to come through, they will need to find an opening batsman; they will need to find two good and reliable middle-order batsmen; they will need to find at least one high-quality spin bowler, preferably a back-of-the-hand type; they will need to find a good wicketkeeper who can also bat; and they will need to find at least one genuinely fast bowler.
The batting, as it is at this time, is too "iffy", despite the presence of Lewis, Hope, and Samuels; the bowling is too pedestrian, despite the presence of Holder and Roach; and the fielding is generally below par, including that of the wicketkeeper.
It is better to be at the World Cup than not to be there, however, and it is always good to hope for the best and to prepare to do one's best, especially when going against the odds.