By Sir Vivian Richards
A lot is going on in West Indies’ cricket at present. Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard have been left out of the squad announced for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Any limited-overs’ team will be happy to have two players of the calibre of Bravo and Pollard.
However, at this stage, we also must respect the people who select the team and it is not for me to say whether this decision is right or wrong.
As captain, Jason Holder will have his hands full. It is too soon to judge whether this is the correct move for such a big tournament because he is quite young. And with whatever has been happening off the field, the dressing room will not be a comfortable place to be in. It is plain to see from Chris Gayle’s reaction in South Africa that players are disgruntled and I am unsure how unified they are.
Talking about this selected team, well, I am most pleased that Sunil Narine is back. I was baffled with the way his action was deemed illegal in a domestic tournament because he has been playing in another domestic event for so many years. So, the timing was very surprising. And to be fair, over the years a lot of players with such — and possibly worse — actions have escaped attention.
Narine’s return will be a huge boost for the team because he is a class spinner in any format of the game. We know what he is capable of and I am looking forward to seeing him perform at his best and help this team accomplish their goal of winning the ICC Cricket World Cup.
Gayle is back too and it is always a pleasure to see him play for the West Indies, especially the way he has batted in the T20s against South Africa. I am not sure if he will play the all-rounder role because of his injury and fitness concerns. The team will want to preserve him for his batting skill alone. There are other all-rounders in the squad to fill in.
Dwayne Smith is a very talented player and he now has the opportunity to showcase it on a world stage. He is an explosive batsman, a magnificent fielder and can bowl a few overs. There is also Marlon Samuels who is a class batsman and quite a handful with his spin, and that will also be a bonus for the team.
Lendl Simmons is aggressive and Darren Bravo is stylish, and both are good batsmen who will like the hard, bouncy wickets in Australia and New Zealand. Bravo is returning to the side after a long absence and will be looking forward to show his worth. Denesh Ramdin is a very experienced player and he is now rid of the captaincy burden. If he can find a good run of form, he will prove to be a very handy player.
I am quite happy with the bowling unit. Along with Holder, there is Jerome Taylor who is returning to the side. He looks fit and hungry, and I am not sure why he was out of reckoning for so long. When Kemar Roach is on song, he is among the quickest bowlers in the world.
I worked with Jonathan Carter and Sheldon Cottrell in the West Indies’ A team set-up. Carter got a century in the domestic T20 event in India and will relish this opportunity to show his true potential. Cottrell is very hard working and gives his everything, and he will like the hard wickets Down Under.
West Indies are placed in group B along with India, Pakistan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ireland and UAE. When you are playing in the ICC Cricket World Cup, no group is easy. You have to be on top of your game while playing even the low-ranking teams.
India and South Africa are always favourites, along with co-hosts Australia. New Zealand are the dark horses. Pakistan can be dangerous or not, depending on which day it is for the side.
However, there are no certain favourites this time unlike the last couple of editions and this is an open tournament like in 1992.
With players like Gayle, Samuels, Darren Bravo, Simmons and Narine, West Indies have a crucial mixture of experience along with the desire to prove something. There can be no other target than winning the tournament, of course. They are good fielders, and if they can be disciplined in both batting and bowling, they can go the distance.
They might also like to use the off-field events and motivate themselves as a unit. It has been a long time since West Indies won the ICC Cricket World Cup and I think this balanced squad has what it takes to regain that glory.