By: Ray Petersen
It’s 32 years since the Windies, in “Calypso King” mode competed in a CWC final, and on the basis of their having won the trophy twice, should be afforded a chance. The reality is that this team has forgotten how to play like the West Indian teams of old, with a smile on their face! They are much more likely now to have players putting themselves ahead of the team, and performing like, and as, individuals on the park. It’s so sad.
Chris Gayle may not be a one-man-band, but he does a fairly good imitation of one, though given his stature, the appointment of relative rookie Jason Holder as captain is perplexing. Marlon Samuels a veteran of nearly 150 matches, and Darren Bravo will have to score well for their team to be competitive. Dinesh Ramdin is probably, as wicketkeeper-batsman, the next most prominent and he is very tidy. Can he fill a ‘batsman’s’ role?
As always, lots of all-rounders in the team, which will make the selection game interesting. Kemar Roach, Darren Sammy, Dwayne Smith, and to a lesser extent Lendl Simmons can all ‘fire-up’ but have been too inconsistent recently.
For the good of the global game, the Windies need to perform. Let’s hope they can put their recent form behind them and trouble the more favoured teams with their own brand of cricket. We do want to see Gayle at his best, as he is worth the price of the TV package on his own when he is hot, and for him to perform, he needs his team-mates to do the same.
Can Pakistan break their losing run?
Pakistan will take comfort that the only time they have won the CWC was in 1992, and also at the MCG, the venue for the 2015 final. A good omen, but omens don’t win World Cups.
There are two reasons to look twice at this team, and the selection policies will either be shown to be far-sighted, or a complete hash! First, the entire batting line-up averages approximately 35, but with only six frontline batsmen, plus wicket-keeper Umar Akmal, and Shahid Afridi, they have rather shown their hand, and will be reliant upon all of the front-liners to contribute in every game.
The other side of the coin is the selection of the very much unexposed pace attack, which relies heavily on the three left-armers.
This is a factor which could greatly affect outcomes during this tournament, especially in the New Zealand matches given the nature of the pitches.
The giant Mohammed Irfan will lead the attack, and his height makes him difficult to work out. If he gets his line right he could be very awkward. Fellow ‘lefties’ Wahab Riaz and Rahat Ali will provide support, and may be busy, as right arm quicks Sohail Khan, and Ehsan Adil have very little experience with only 5 and 4 matches respectively. Yasir Shah provides the leg spin option, and Afridi will not doubt bowl his usually economic spells. At least they have options, though inexperienced.
Misbah-ul-Haq is a canny campaigner though, and with the wily Afridi is sure to be effective with the limited experience, and resources he has at his disposal. The biggest asset is the “boom-boom” factor, and Afridi has shown that if this is to be his last hurrah, he will ‘go out with a bang!’ On the face of it however, Pakistan looks under-resourced and even at 21/1 with the bookies, will only attract ‘loyalty’ money.
Proteas battle chokers tag
The smart money is pouring in late for South Africa, and despite never having won the coveted title, they must rank as the best balanced of all of the competing teams. A mixture of youth and experience is obvious, and although beaten by the Black Caps in a recent warm-up match, they still look to have the all-round firepower to win.
AB de Villiers leads by example, and with an average over 50, he will have the confidence to play his natural game knowing full well there is a wealth of batting to follow, especially after his 31 ball hundred last month. Hashim Amla has been around for more than 10 years, is a prolific run-scorer, and best of all, rarely fails. He is the rock upon which their success is built!
When you factor in the solidity of a middle order of Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, and David Miller who all average close to 40. Then add the exciting talent of Rilee Roussow, and the baby faced assassin and wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock you have a stacked batting line up. The youth again, of Kyle Abbott and Farhaan Behardien among the all-rounders is exciting, and add to the entertainment factor. The experienced Wayne Parnell offers left arm fast-medium options, and is also a handy hitter, averaging 22.
Tahir Khan will bowl his ‘leggies’ effectively, having an excellent strike rate, and this is where SA, like the Black Caps have significant strength. The economy rate of all of the fast bowlers is below 5 runs an over, and Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander have superb strike rates as well. A double whammy! Along with Morne Morkel, they form a lethal strike force, and with the young strapping Aaron Phangiso to offer a developing alternative, opposing batsmen will not find runs easy to come by.
The only thing against South Africa not winning this tournament is history, and they have conspired in the past to lose games they should have won. Those losses should provide sufficient motivation for de Villier’s team, after all, no-one in sport likes being called ‘chokers!’
Minnows’ best prospects
The CWC teams from second and third tier nations will all play their part, but I would be pretty safe in saying that none will progress beyond the group stages. Rather than focus on the teams, I have chosen one player to watch in each of the teams.
Zimbabwean Brendan Taylor has played an amazing 160 one-day matches, and is a seriously hard hitting wicketkeeper-batsman, with an average of 33. He appeals as a player who is ‘in love with the game’ and while stubborn, determined and aggressive, always has a ready smile. Built like a rugby player, he could sign off on a career to be proud of, on the world stage.
Can any of these teams win a game? Well, stranger things have happened, and Ireland, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh appear to have the most experience, however, should the Afghanistan, Scottish, and particularly the UAE team get into a position to win a game, I’ll be rooting for them.
SOURCE: OMAN DAILY OBSERVER