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5 reasons why the return of stars will bolster West Indies ODI cricket

2017 HERO Caribbean Premier League - St Kitts and Nevis v Jamaica Tallawahs
Charismatic big-hitter Gayle will inject runs and life into the team

Windies are going through one of their lowest periods in their ODI cricket history, what with them not qualifying for the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy.

A very inconsistent, starless Windies team has played in the ODI format since the World Cup in 2015. They had the likes of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, and Dwayne Bravo playing for them in the World Cup.

But then things went out of control, there was a heated debate with regards to player-cricket board relations which resulted in all their marquee players not featuring in the ODI format. The result? A string of defeats caused by listless performances and not being able to qualify for the champions trophy.

But in some good news, there has been some improvement in player relations with the WICB and Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels will return for the Windies against England soon and Dwayne Bravo who is unfit now is willing to play again for the Windies once he is fully fit.

Return of Chris Gayle ushers in hope for the Windies

Cricket fans all over the world is very much aware of what Chris Gayle is capable of. His charismatic presence on the cricket ground playing for the Windies will raise the hopes of their fans.

The fans can hope for better results from the Windies. Cricket is not a one man’s sport, but such is the power hitting skills of this gifted batsman that if he gets a good start, he will dent the confidence of the opposition by his clean, magnificent striking.

He is capable of winning games single-handedly on a given day. The ‘Universe Boss’ as he calls himself, has 269 ODI caps where he has amassed 9221 runs at an average of 37.24 with 22 hundreds.

He is by far their most experienced batsman and more importantly in times where there are some good, young talent coming through the ranks, Gayle’s charisma and his presence will surely be a boost for them as they can go on to express themselves better.

Age may be catching up with the big guy, he might have ‘not played a ODI game in two years but the very fact that Gayle is back in the ODI squad will provide Windies supporters hope that their team will push England in the ODI series coming up, also not to forget his presence in the team will cause some worries for the English think tank.

In times where all hope seems to be lost, Gayle’s inclusion adds much needed experience to this squad along with making sure that their chances of competing hard and proving to their fans that they are there to win and not just to make up the numbers.

Windies get a dependable No 3 in the form of Marlon Samuels

2017 HERO Caribbean Premier League - St Lucia Stars v Jamaica Tallawahs
Marlon Samuels (pictured playing for the St Lucia Zouksin the CPL) is a solid figure in the team

In recent times, the Windies batting has lacked depth, skill and in many cases the right temperament to handle what’s thrown at them. They lacked a solid, calm person who could anchor the innings and score some important runs.

That’s what the inclusion of Marlon Samuels into the team would bring. He is known for his ultra-cool exterior and flamboyant batting. A combination this Windies would most definitely need if they want to win more games and improve as an ODI team.

With Samuels we can be guaranteed of someone who can hold one end up, someone who can rotate the strike when required and if he does end up eating away lot of balls, he possesses the skill to step on the accelerator when required.

A batsman who comes in at the critical position of No 3, is someone who is usually the team’s most decorated, trusted and talented player. Classic examples of this would be Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Joe Root, and Kane Williamson.

Although Gayle is their most destructive weapon, Samuels is for sure their most dependable batter. He may not get you your quick fire 70 of 30 balls kind of innings but he definitely can bat for long time and he is capable of absorbing the pressure if quick wickets do fall.

5180 runs at an acceptable average of 34.3 with ten centuries makes for good reading. One must also not forget his contribution in the field. He is sharp, agile and even at 36 years of age he is among the country’s better fieldsmen.

This team gets its competitive streak back

West Indies v Zimbabwe - 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup
Gayle and Samuels, pictured together, will give the team a competitive edge together

What was painful and frustrating for fans and former players of the Windies was to witness the meek way in which their team has competed over the past few years. There has hardly been a contest and sometimes the opponents have made them look like amateurs on the field.

Cricket viewers across the globe were taken aback when this team couldn’t qualify for an ICC event for the first time in their cricketing history. A lot of reasons could be attributed for this slide in Windies quality as an ODI team, but what can ‘not be forgiven is the lack of fight shown by the current lot of players.

Although this current crop of players aren’t to be pinpointed, there seems a lack of direction and encouragement which the players need to go out and express themselves better.

With the likes of Gayle and Samuels who have seen so many ups and downs in their respective careers, it becomes imperative that they both add up as mentors for the young crop of players coming through the ranks.

As if somehow this team can bond, get motivated then they do possess the talent to compete and give all opponents a run for their money which is what their fans and the general cricket audience wants.

Interest among the fans will increase

West Indies v Ireland - 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup

Fans play such a vital part in every team’s journey. They usually are behind a team irrespective of the team’s performance. They make a huge difference.

What’s missing for this Windies team are their fans and their support especially in the shorter versions of the game. With all the famous, well established players out due to contractual issues coupled with the continuous poor form of the Windies, fans are nowhere to be seen.

There used to be a time when stadiums in the Caribbean islands were packed with people and they were enjoying themselves in typical Caribbean style making the viewing experience so much more fun and enjoyable.

Off late with so many new faces and none evoking too much interest from the fan’s perspective, we get to see empty, quiet stadiums especially when ODI cricket or test cricket is played in the Caribbean Islands.

That can be expected to change in the near future what with crowd-puller ‘Universe Boss’ back in the mix along with a well-known figure like Samuels.

Fans can expect some fireworks and more importantly with the likes of Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine scheduled to make a return shortly, there surely will be an increase in the number of people who follow Windies –be at the stadiums or the people sitting and watching the games at home.

This team gets something a sense of direction

West Indies v England - 3rd ODI
Jason Holder's captaincy has been praised - and now will be bolstered

What this team Windies ODI team lacked more than even their big stars was a clear lack of clarity in their approach and that was reflected very clearly in their recent results.

Jason Holder was hurriedly ushered in as the captain into a team which lacked motivation and proper guidance. Holder has ‘not managed to completely win the trust of his own team members, which is not that good a sign when he has been put in-charge of building a team.

What the selectors and cricket administrators have done has pushed back the team quite a few notches back. For immediate, short term remedies to improve their situation and to get this team on course and give them a sense of direction which they are lacking, they need experienced players.

They can guide and mentor the youngsters helping them to perform better and for Holder they can help him in getting the respect he deserves as a captain. Gayle has himself praised Holder’s selfless captaincy thereby giving his support to the leader of the team.

What that does is it galavanises the team and brings them closer when experienced players back their captain even when the chips are down. And one can only hope that with the involvement of more players into their scheme of things, Windies can chart a plan of action which leads up to the World Cup in 2019.

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Edited by Anuradha Santhanam
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