Tri-Nation Series: West Indies v South Africa, 1st ODI Preview
The tri-series between Australia, South Africa and hosts West Indies gets underway with a tie that will see the hosts locking horns with South Africa in Providence stadium of Guyana. This is the first time West Indies will be playing a match after their World T20 triumph in India. South Africa too will be seen first time in action after their T20 debacle where they got knocked out in the group stage. Interestingly, it was the West Indies who knocked South Africa out in the World T20 in India.
Both teams have had contrasting fortunes coming into the series. South Africa didn’t take too much time to prove that their series defeat against Bangladesh in 2015 was an aberration as they first sank the visiting Kiwis at home, then overwhelmed India in India and managed to come on top in a hard-fought series against England at home. West Indies, on the other hand, except for the T20 glory have little going for them. They haven’t played at home for almost two years now and played only one series post the 2015 World Cup, where they were blanked by Sri Lanka.
What more, the last time the West Indies won any 50 over tournament against a major team was back in 2012 when they defeated New Zealand 4-1 in a bilateral home series. Owing to such form in this format, West Indies finds itself booted out of the Champions Trophy that is to be held next year in England as they currently ranks a lowly 9th in ICC rankings.
Not only is the past imperfect for the hosts, even their present looks tense. The West Indies Cricket Board has come under constant scrutiny for its handling of its cricketers. But the impasse didn’t show any signs of fading away as the Board selected a team sans its star players of the T20 triumph for the tri-series. As a result, the Jason Holder led team will be missing the services of Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Lendl Simmons.
All these players have been penalized for not playing the regional 50 over tournament last year. However, where the selection process gets baffling is the inclusion of Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine, who also missed the same tournament which cost the five aforementioned names a place in the side.
It is amidst this bitter fracas that West Indies will meet South Africa on Friday. Although severely weakened, skipper Holder has a good mix of youth and experience in his side. Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin and Jerome Taylor are seasoned cricketers and would need support from youngsters like Carlos Braithwaite, Johnson Charles and skipper Holder himself, whose captaincy will be under the scanner. Focus will also be on Sunil Narine whose new action has not really proved effective if his performances in the Indian Premier League are anything to go by.
South Africa have a more or less settled line up going into the tri-series but will be wary of the slow pitches of Caribbean after they were found wanting on similar pitches in Bangladesh last summer. Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers had a fruitful IPL, while batsman Faf du Plessis will be back after sustaining an injury during the tournament. However, it’s the bowling that will give coach Russell Domingo headaches. With Dale Steyn left out from the squad, Kagiso Rabada is expected to share the new ball with Morne Morkel. But what is to be seen is whether Parnell assumes the third bowler’s role or Chris Morris.
Morris has been in terrific form over the last one year and has staked a serious claim to be the all-rounder South Africa are looking for post Jacques Kallis’ retirement. But Wayne Parnell, three years younger to Morris, has been resilient and has struggled hard to keep himself relevant to South African cricket seven years after he first burst on to the scene. Given the slow and low nature of the pitches on which the tri-series will be played, chinaman Tabraiz Shamsi could also figure in Coach Domingo’s scheme of things.
West Indies’ best chance would lie in stifling the life out of the strong South African batting line up with spin. However, a certain AB de Villiers will be licking his lips in anticipation as the last two times he batted against a West Indies bowling attack in ODIs, he ended up notching the fastest 50, 100 and 150.