Orville Higgins | Windies selectors with World Cup headache
With two weeks to go to the start of the ICC World Cup, the hierarchy of the Windies team cannot be completely happy with the current form of some key members of the squad. Indeed, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to feel that they are slightly worried. At this time, captain Jason Holder can’t even be sure what his best XI is, going into the opening World Cup game against Pakistan on May 31.
Under normal circumstances, the left-handed trio of Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer would be all automatic selections, expected to play virtually every game. The form of all three must be genuine cause for concern. Since his return, Darren Bravo has looked a shadow of what he was before his two-year absence. He has only one half-century in his last 11 innings at an average of 24. That’s not the type of return you would want from your most experienced batsman.
Both Hetmyer and Lewis have struggled in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Lewis seems to have completely forgotten how to bat, while Hetmyer, except for one or two glimpses, has also not looked in the best of form. Nicholas Pooran did not really set the world on fire in the IPL either, which means that virtually the entire middle order of the Windies team is short of runs and probably confidence going into the World Cup.
Shai Hope’s fantastic run at the top of the order probably means he will open with Chris Gayle in the first World Cup game, which may mean no place for Lewis. Unless he comes good in the few warm-up games when they get to England, then Bravo’s place may also be hanging by a thread. The reality, though, is that the Windies may well have to start the tournament with Bravo, Lewis and Hetmyer, whatever their current form. There are not too many other batsmen to choose from.
Many pundits, including myself, had felt from early on that the 15-man squad lacked one specialist batsman, and it is now appearing more and more obvious. John Campbell, Sunil Ambris and Roston Chase have all looked good in the just-concluded Ireland Tri-Nation Series tournament. At least one of those, maybe even two, should have been in the original squad. Jonathan Carter may not have been originally considered as a must-pick for the first game, but it’s hard to not see him starting, given the lack of runs from the others.
While there are problems in the batting department, the bowlers have not looked particularly special either. In two of the preliminary games against Bangladesh, the Windies could not restrict the Tigers after getting useful scores to defend. Bangladesh won those games easily by eight and five wickets, with the Windies bowlers seemingly powerless either to restrict runs or get wickets.
Coming into yesterday’s final game against Bangladesh, it was Ashley Nurse who was the leading Windies bowler in the Ireland Tri-Nation Series. Nurse has therefore put up his hand for one of the bowling spots. Holder will play as the all-rounder and another bowling option. It is anybody’s guess what the rest of the bowling unit will look like. Two of Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel and Sheldon Cottrell will play and will take the new ball, but which of Fabian Allen, Carlos Brathwaite or Andre Russell will form the support cast is still not certain.
Yes, there are serious issues for the West Indies think tank. The Ireland Tri-Nation Series was supposed to help define what the Windies starting XI would be in the first World Cup game. If anything, it has only caused more headache for the selectors.