Is West Indies' cricket in the midst of a fabled ODI renaissance?
Two-time World Cup winners West Indies were the champions at the inaugural edition of cricket's mega event back in 1975. A repeat performance at the 1979 World Cup attracted a number of West Indian cricket admirers, who thoroughly enjoyed the cricketing bandwagon.
However, as the years have rolled on, West Indies' squads have failed to put up impressive shows on the field that have led to a string of losses. The retirement of a number of top performers in the past created a profound void, evident from West Indies' inability to qualify for the final of the World Cup for the first time in 1987, twelve years since the tournament's inception.
The legendary Brian Lara impressed one and all with his clean striking ability and unmatched timing wherever he played. The 'Prince of Trinidad', as he was fondly reffered to, was smashing records one after the other, but the opportunity to lay his hands on the World Cup tantalizingly eluded him.
A number of quality players right from Ramnaresh Sarwan, Marlon Samuels and Shivnarine Chanderpaul have represented the West Indies but will little World Cup success and now, after forgettable campaigns at five World Cup tournaments between 1999 and 2015, the West Indian team may have finally found the key to ODI cricket success.
The inclusion of power hitters in the side like Andre Russell and Shimron Hetmeyer who can muscle the ball a long way has given the West Indies style of cricket a new outlook altogether. Players like Shai Hope, Darren Bravo have time and again proven their worth, anchoring the innings to perfection.
A suave Chris Gayle can take the attack to the opposition in the company of the charismatic Nicholas Pooran, with Carlos Brathwaite a capable finisher. In the bowling department too, the young Oshane Thomas and the wily Sheldon Cottrell bowling in tandem has shown a lot of promise at the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.
A score in excess of 400 against a disciplined New Zealand bowling line up cemented their status as dark horses, dishing out lethal blows in quick succession and after a stellar performance against the Pakistan team, peppering the batsmen with unplayable short deliveries, WI is on the path of resurgence.
Effective use of the 'chin music' seems to be the WI team's algorithm of success as the tournament progresses. Against the Australians, WI had a set plan for bowling to the top order batsmen, restricting them to 79/5 inside of 20 overs.
However, Nathan Coulter-Nile took up the onus to take on their fiery bowling attack with a counter-attacking 92. Coulter-Nile's innings may have made the difference between winning and losing for the Australians, but it did not do much to discount West Indies' growing credibility.
West Indies can take heart from their performance against the Australians and have already sent out a message that they can no more be trampled on. With a batting unit capable of pulverizing any bowling attack and a bowling unit quick enough to trouble the best of batsmen with bounce off the surface, the other competing teams will be wary of West Indies' bowling as the tournament progresses because this West Indies team is here to stay.