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Fazeer Mohammed A different spin


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Fazeer  Mohammed A different spin

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In just over three months’ time – May 31 to be exact – West Indies will be taking on Pakistan in Nottingham in the opening match for both teams at the

World Cup

in England.

There’s a tri-nation series in Ireland and three official warmup matches leading into that showpiece tournament, but as far as selecting the squad of 15 for that main event, the remaining three matches against England (tomorrow and Wednesday in Grenada and Saturday in St Lucia) are the final opportunities to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the team in a competitive setting.

And with the series locked at 1-1, and given that both sides will be claiming they should have been 2-0 up but for a variety of factors, this level of competitiveness ahead of the

World Cup

bodes well for a Caribbean side that has been written off as a legitimate contender from the moment they scraped past Scotland – with the help of a poor umpiring decision and heavy rain – in the decisive match of the qualification tournament last March in Zimbabwe.

Friday night’s victory at

Kensington Oval

was the first over England since February 28, 2014 in Antigua. That’s 12 matches ago, a period when the two-time

World Cup

winners were slipping so far off the radar that any suggestion of the West Indies being a factor at the premier tournament would have been considered utterly ludicrous.

It’s still too early to entertain the realistic prospect of the Caribbean side being more than occasional upsetters over the drawn out round-robin format of the 2019

World Cup

– everyone plays everyone in the ten-team format before the semi-finals. But the

evidence of the first two matches of this series offers considerable encouragement, while at the same time highlighting areas of concern which need to be addressed immediately if opposing captains and coaches are to be scanning their World Cup fixture list once again to note, maybe anxiously, when they are scheduled to play the West Indies.

Two areas in need of immediate remedial work are obvious: catches and dot balls.

Tenacity

For Jason Holder’s side to be all-square after two matches despite dropping so many catches on Wednesday and Friday says a lot for their tenacity. But this is unacceptable at this level of the game. Why there should be so many errors after a general level of excellence in the preceding Test series is a question that doesn’t appear to have a straightforward answer.

In any event, that rot has to stop now and interim head coach Richard Pybus, who must be given a fair share of credit for the team’s performances so far during this England visit notwithstanding the very real concern over the

It’s still too early to entertain the realistic prospect of the Caribbean side being more than occasional upsetters over the drawn out round-robin format of the 2019 World Cup but the evidence of the first two matches of this series offers considerable encouragement.

process of his appointment, has to be giving this aspect of the team’s preparation extra attention ahead of tomorrow’s third match.

Pybus, Holder and everyone else involved in the decision-making processes within the team, not least the main batsmen themselves, must also be looking at the number of scoreless deliveries they keep soaking up innings after ODI innings. Much was made of the record-breaking tally of 23 sixes out of a total of 360 for eight in the series-opener. Yet, that was put in perspective by the manner in which England cantered to the target on the back of a flying start

West Indies players celebrating their victory over England in the second One-Day International.

(Picture by Kenmore Bynoe.)

from openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. ODI cricket, certainly for the elite teams, has long since moved on from the 270-280 par scores to the extent that even totals in the 340-350 range are now considered vulnerable.

You can’t expect to be setting or successfully chasing formidable targets without maximizing scoring opportunities. Chris Gayle had innings of 135 and 50 in the first two matches against England on his return to the team and while the obvious focus has been on the number of deliveries that were not scored off when he was at the crease, this is very much a team issue and has been a source of concern for years.

Sustained intensity, without recklessness, from ball one has to be the goal. Dealing in boundaries is spectacular stuff. But singles, twos and threes are runs too, and invariably are the difference between challenging scores and winning totals.

How the remaining matches in this series unfold will obviously generate more scope for discussion, not just about technique and tactics, but personnel. Sheldon Cottrell’s immediate and spectacular impact in the second match put the spotlight on the composition of the bowling attack when, hopefully, Kemar Roach is fit again and Shannon Gabriel has served his suspension.

Will there still be room for both Devendra Bishoo and Ashley Nurse in the final eleven depending of the types of pitches expected at the World Cup through the month of June?

When a World Cup is round the corner, everything matters.

Fazeer Mohammed is a regional cricket journalist and broadcaster who has been covering the game at all levels since 1987.

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