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WI need to keep heat on


COLIN CROFT

WI need to keep heat on

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In the indomitable words of “Big” George Gonzalez, of Vibe CT-105 FM’s daily fun and information morning programme, “Mixed Nuts”, supposedly the most popular week-day morning programme in Trinidad and Tobago, of which I am also, these days, one of the studio nuts: – “Dat is what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!!”
It was just Holland and Bangladesh, but, as former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd reminded his players often:  “If you are better than other teams, then you must show them that you are better!”  Quite!
After the showing against South Africa in their opener, West Indies had to come back well to convince.
Please do not get too excited yet.  There are still much tougher teams – India, England, Ireland – ahead. Therefore, qualification to quarter-finals is not yet a foregone conclusion. However, as the Irish are wont to say, especially after a nice, long, strong, dark drink:  “That will do to be getting on with!”
I neither apologize nor recant as regards not just asking, but absolutely demanding, excellence and proper representation from my cricketing ambassadors. At the least, I know I deserve both.  
I want no excuses at all, just success.  If you do not represent me properly, I will complain, bitterly, continually.
So, where are we as regards Cricket World Cup 2011 and progress, or not, of West Indies?
I expect that you will hear the great bellows opening up like the horns of Charlie’s Roots, or Roy Cape All-Stars’ stunningly good Carnival 2011 band, telling us that West Indies is also good.  To date, that is as maybe.
Of the two games against Netherlands and Bangladesh, West Indies were better against the Dutch than the Banglas, despite the difference in winning margins, 215 runs and nine wickets, respectively.  
Intelligently, for the Dutch, West Indies changed especially their batting line-up, with Kieron Pollard promoted up the order, to No. 5, to capitalize on power-plays.  It worked well for them too, with “The Big Man” getting 60 in just 27 deliveries, including five fours, and four sixes – real power-hitting.
While it is unfortunate that Dwayne Bravo, and his always present exuberance, scratched through injury, Machel Montano & HD put it correctly. That injury was somewhat “Advantageous” to West Indies’ planning.  With elder Bravo missing, the team seemed much more settled as regards composition.    
Against Netherlands, West Indies, especially Chris Gayle, seemed to be batting with a plan, to get at least 300. Gayle’s 80 came in 110 deliveries, a superb, slow, but thinking effort, as he managed to curb his normally sensational, but sometimes iffy power-hitting, to set the base and to cement the innings.
Kemar Roach’s emergence as lead West Indies bowler is both enjoyable and exciting to watch. Roach has been a great presence. He is the only real quick bowler in the West Indies line-up. For such a young man, he has taken on the aspects of responsibility with some relish. He seems so much stronger too.  
With Darren Bravo and injured Adrian Barrath, this trio is the nucleus of an emerging senior, but young West Indies for the near future, one that would not include veterans Chris Gayle, Shiv Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan. We can only hope that this emerging three would impact our future tremendously.
Great confidence
Roach’s hat-trick against Netherlands was well-thought out, and took great confidence too, especially the last of the three consecutive wickets – bowled.  Most of us who have had two wickets in two balls in the past have found it difficult to get that third consecutive delivery correct. It is harder than it looks.  
Joel Garner’s excellent 5-38 in the Lord’s final against England in the 1979 World Cup could be compared with Roach’s 6-27, but Winston Davis’ 7-51, against Australia in 1983, is still West Indies’ benchmark to beat.  
Of Garner’s 5-38 (11 overs), Davis’ 7-51 (10.3 overs) or Roach’s 6-27 (8.3 overs), which is best, considering the strength of opposition – Garner v England, Davis v Australia, or Roach v Holland? Interesting.    
Anyway, Bangladesh simply froze. All sports professionals, individuals or teams have at least one of these in their sporting lifetimes.  
To have done this in front of adoring and vociferous supporters at Mirpur, their home stadium, in the biggest 50-overs competition of all, would have shocked Bangladesh. Recovery from this beating will be extremely tough for them, especially with games against England and South Africa to come.  
I have liked the use of left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn by West Indies. While Roach has done a splendid job, Benn’s great height and unpredictable pitches that West Indies have used so far have aided “Benny” well.  
With his natural competitiveness, Benn has proved to be the perfect foil for Roach. In the last games, against Netherlands, captain Darren Sammy was also quite good too.  
West Indies’ next game is against Ireland.
I am very sure that Ireland will not fold, as both Netherlands, after their close escapade against England, and Bangladesh, against West Indies, after their fair efforts against India and Ireland, have done. Ireland are on a mission to convince themselves, more particularly the ICC, that they fully belong with the big shots.
They are not doing too badly, and have nothing to lose.  
One of the best
The match between Ireland and England was one of the best games ever seen in any World Cup. The Pommies are talking a good game, but they are not playing it. They look quite flat and extremely jaded.  
Long now has the Ashes win been forgotten; the present being the benchmark to be considered.  While captain Andrew Strauss has been excellent, his team, especially its bowling, has been absolutely haemorrhaging runs.  
It also just shows that if you take the game to any team, even one supposedly superior, you can eventually win.  Fortune certainly favoured Kevin O’Brien and Ireland. Take a bow, and a brew, Ireland.    
Everyone remembers Ireland’s efforts against Pakistan in 2007. They also came very close to beating South Africa then too.  They have set themselves to, at least, qualifying for the quarter-finals.  
Beating West Indies will also have double significance with Ireland’s coach Phil Simmons wanting to get one up on his ‘country-man’, West Indies coach Ottis Gibson, and to go one step further than 2007, by beating two supposedly better teams. Ireland are at full throttle and will go for broke here.
It is a long tournament. The game between West Indies and Ireland on Friday, is an awkward fixture, and they must be very aware of a “down”, not necessarily complacency, but the psychological relaxation after such a performance, and aftermath – stoning of the team’s bus – to come out fully charged again, against Ireland.  
One good thing for West Indies is that they have a few days to remove the strains, even stains, from fear of personal harm, from their minds.  Like carnival, they must be pumped.
England will come hard at West Indies too. It would be dangerous to overlook Ireland to go forward to England. The match between England and West Indies could be indicative as to where West Indies go, and especially whom they play if they eventually qualify for quarter-finals.  
•Colin Croft is a former West Indies fast bowler who is now newspaper columnist, radio and television commentator.

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