England are scheduled to take on the Windies for a 5 match ODI series after the test series which the hosts ended up winning 2-1.
The Test series before it started was written off as a no contest but after a humiliation in the first Test, in an amazing show of grit and character the Windies bounced back and created history at Headingley, Leeds. England proved to be good in tough conditions at Lords in the third test.
Heading into this series, knowing that after their defeat in the first ODI, the Windies haven’t automatically qualified for the ICC World Cup, 2019.
England look firm favourites to win this series looking at their current form , but a spirited, whole hearted effort from the Windies can make this series closer than people think.
There’s lot to play for, which would make this series very competitive. Here’s looking at 5 reasons why this series will be competitive:
Windies looking to regain lost pride
Everybody talks about how Windies cricket has slipped in recent times. Evidence of that came post their defeat in the first ODI against England, as a result of which they didn’t automatically qualify for the ICC World Cup, 2019.
After not being part of the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy, they could possibly not be featuring in another mega ICC event. Windies need no other motivation than this.
Two-time world champions, the Windies need to play for pride, play to qualify for the ICC World Cup, 2019. The return of some big stars will certainly boost the morale of this Jason Holder led Windies team
The fact that they need to win as many games as they can will give them the motivation required to display an improved performance, which would then make for a closely fought series, and not another one sided series involving the Windies team.
The return of big names makes this Windies team look much stronger
Post the ICC World Cup in 2015, many big stars ruled themselves out of playing for the country due to contract issues with the WICB.
With things slowly moving in the right direction, a few big names have returned to the fold.
Chris Gayle is the biggest attraction. His charisma, along with his ferocious batting abilities are a huge bonus for the Windies. And Gayle, although a bit rusty, has looked dominating in the one-off T20I and the first ODI.
His form is a huge positive, and the Windies will be hoping he stays in for longer periods of time, and score more runs. The inclusion of Marlon Samuels adds much needed experience to this middle order.
Samuels is known to be very calm-headed in pressure situations, something this rather young and inexperienced batting line-up could use. He takes up balls but has in it him to bat long and more importantly cover up for the dot balls consumed.
The inclusion of these two stalwarts will likely give the England team some headaches, and overall, help in reducing the gulf between the two sides, making the series more competitive.
The Windies mojo seems to have returned
Something which was clearly missing in the Windies team in the Tests - perhaps barring Shai Hope was the lack of swag, confidence and generally a competitive attitude. That would change looking at the team selected for the ODI series.
With power hitters likes Gayle and Lewis at the top, followed by Shai Hope, Samuels, Jason Mohammed and Rowman Powell, this Windies team doesn’t look like the Test team.
Each of these players carries themselves with swag and self-confidence which on most occasions is visible in the way they play the game. It brings in new energy to this team which was desperately missing from the Windies.
And not to forget with increase in confidence levels, a improved performance from Windies can be expected from their batsmen, bowlers and their fielders.
The impetus on picking youngsters
Apart from Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, this Windies team is filled with young, talented players. This is definitely a step taken in the right direction keeping the ICC World Cup, 2019 in mind.
Evin Lewis is as good a striker of the ball as Gayle. An extremely gifted batsmen, he has shown his worth already with his two hundreds in T20I’s which decimated oppositions. Good things can be expected from this youngster.
The same goes for their middle order too. Samuels is the experience which binds two talented, young batsmen in Shai Hope and Jason Mohammed. Both have had good starts to their ODI career and if they can learn few things from Samuels it would do them good.
Picking Rowman Powell ahead of Dwayne Bravo or Carlos Brathwaite is a good sign too. Dwayne Bravo hasn’t played for the Windies for a while and Brathwaite hasn’t been able to replicate his T20 antics in the ODI format.
So picking new talent keeping an eye on the ICC World Cup, Powell’s inclusion is a step in the right direction. Also what the inclusion of so many youngsters would do is it would increase the energy levels of the team which would be reflected in improved fielding and catching standards.
The bowling attack looks balanced
The bowling attack of the Windies looks good, with most bowler’s suitable options for an ODI series in England. Looking at the conditions which would be on offer in England, the crop of bowlers selected are pretty good, effective picks - and here's why.
The biggest positive is the inclusion of Jerome Taylor. His quick arm action, ability to reverse the ball, along with a deceptive slower ball makes him a wicket taking option for the Windies.
In a bowling line-up filled with similarity, Taylor’s speed with the ability to swing the ball is a huge bonus for Jason Holder to have.
As otherwise the likes of Holder, Kesrick Williams, Alzari Joseph, Miguel Cummins and Powell all are about the same kind of bowlers. They bowl at 125-135 kms/hr., generally their wicket taking deliveries would be the ball which goes away from the batsmen.
With England’s top order a bit iffy around the off-stump when conditions suit the swing bowlers, these are good options to have. What could have spiced up this attack even more and get some variety is Sheldon Cotrell’s slippery left arm fast-mediums or a Kemar Roach who is express pace and his speed can unnerve the batsmen.
With the English batsmen in good knick and pitches generally easing out after the first 10-15 overs, the Windies need spinners who can control the innings and get wickets in the middle of the innings.
With Ashley Nurse and Devendra Bishoo in their side, they have two competent spinners who can cause trouble to the English batsmen.
It now remains to be seen if these bowlers can play up to potential and not get bogged down by the fact that every result is critical for their team, if they want to play in the World Cup.
Can they deliver as a bowling unit? We will have to wait and watch.