It's time for the Windies to strike
Tony Becca, Contributing Editor
Forty years ago, the first World Cup tournament was played, the West Indies were fancied to win it because of their style of play, and they did win it. In fact, they won the first two events while surprisingly, and shockingly, losing the third in the final.
The World Cup is a one-day affair, it is a 50-over per side event (60-overs at one time), and the West Indies, after winning the first on a last-wicket partnership between Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts, some brilliant batting by Clive Lloyd and Rohan Kanhai, and some superb fielding by Viv Richards, won the second on the back of a wonderful innings by Richards, a glorious knock by Collis King, and some wonderful fast bowling head by Joel Garner.
They lost the third after their bowlers, Roberts, Garner, Malcolm Marshall, and Michael Holding, had dismissed India for 183 and their batsmen, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Richards, Lloyd, Larry Gomes, Faoud Bacchus, and Jeffrey Dujon, had collapsed surprisingly for 140.
That was in 1975, 1979, and 1983, the West Indies have not won since, they have reached the semi-finals only once, in 1996, and the fans are suffering: they are calling for a win, and they believe that this time around could be their time.
Can the West Indies win it? Probably, may be, they can, even without Sunil Narine.
Such is the nature of one-day cricket that any of the top eight teams can win it, not so much when we remember the glorious uncertainties of the game, but especially when we recall the many surprises of this version, in this tournament, including the West Indies shock defeat at the hands of Kenya in 1996 and Pakistan's double embarrassment in 2007 when they were beaten by Zimbabwe and Ireland in the opening matches.
And we should not forget Kenya's march to the semi-finals in 2003, after the luck of the draw, and after beating Sri Lanka.
Based on the West Indies recent performances, however, not only in Test matches but also in the one-day game, they should not even have a ghost of a chance of winning it, not ahead of Australia, not ahead of India, and not even over South Africa, who have a history of choking.
Four times winners Australia, with their batting line-up to come from David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith, George Bailey, and Mitchell Marsh, plus James Faulkner and Glen Maxwell, and their bowling to come from Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and John Hazlewood, start as number one favourites.
Two times winners and defending champions India, with batsmen such as Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinka Rahane, and Suresh Raina, also Mahendra Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, plus pace bowlers Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, and spinner Ravi Ashwin, are right up there, and so too South Africa, who have won it and never even got to the final.
With a batting line-up of Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Ab deVilliers, David Miller, J. P. Duminy, and Rilee Rossouw, and a bowling attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morke, and Vernon Philander, and right-arm leg-spinner, Imran Tahir, however, South Africa are dangerous, normally.
Those are the top three with the other is the running in New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and England.
New Zealand have been to the semi-finals but never to the final, Pakistan have won the Cup on one occasion, Sri Lanka have also won it once, and despite making it the finals on three occasions, England have never won the World Cup.
All four teams appear quite balanced this time around, however, with New Zealand, who boast an impressive aggregation in batsmen Brendan McCullum, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, and Martin Guptil, all-rounder Corey Anderson, pacers Tim Southee and Trent Boult, and veteran left-arm spinner, Danile,Vettori, top of the list.
They are followed by Sri Lanka with batsmen such as Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, and Nuwan Kulasekara, all-rounder Angelo Matthews, left-arm spinner Ragana Herath, and the vastly experienced pacer, Lasith Malinga and Pakistan with batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammed Hafeez, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, wrist spinner Shahid Afridi, and pacers Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz.
England, despite their appearance in three finals, have never really looked like winning, and this time it is no different, despite the presence of three batsmen like Ian Bell, Joe Root, and Alex Hayles and fast bowlers such as Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
The last but not least are the West Indies, not because of sentiment, but mainly because of the uncertainties of the game and of the tournament especially, because of the conditions in which the tournament is being played - in two different countries, with a difference in the size of the grounds and difference in the types of pitches from country to country, and because of the possibilities of their players.
The performance of the West Indies players, but for one or two, does not promise much, but the possibilities are endless, especially as far as the batmen are concerned and if they concentrate, if they play sensibly, if they use their head.
They can win, especially as they parade batsmen who can explode, especially as they have exploded before, and especially if they play with a spirit of all for one and one for all.
A line-up of a fit Christopher Gayle and Lendl Simmons, followed by Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith, André Russell, and Darren Sammy, if they click, can be awesome, and the fielding, led by Russell, Smith, Sammy, Simmons, and Darren Bravo, can rise to the occasion.
If only the bowling can rise above the ordinary.
After recent performances, after South Africa, it is certainly asking for much, probably too much. The success of the World Cup, however, with four teams from each group going through from the first round, depends on a team playing brilliantly on three occasions, in the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, and in the final.
The success of the West Indies depends on the performances of men like Gayle, Smith, Samuels, Russell, and Sammy, and also, and without Narine, and pacer Kemar Roach, if he is fit.
There are a lot of 'ifs' and 'buts', all that glitters is not gold, and the World Cup is not T20 cricket. It is, however, short enough and exciting enough to be right up the West Indies street, and even without Shivnarine Chanderpaul to steady the boat in stormy seas, they can win it this time around, God's willing.