England face West Indies in a 5-ODI series © Getty Images
England face West Indies in a 5-ODI series © Getty Images

Let me begin by asking: Did any of us ever imagine that West Indies will be on the verge of playing the qualifiers to cement a place in World Cup (2019)? The Caribbean side are currently languishing at the No. 9 position in latest ICC ODI Rankings. They have to beat England, daunting predators at home, at least by 4-0 (including no result or tie) or 5-0 margin in the upcoming five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) to finish in the top 8. Giving them a direct entry into the mega event in England and Wales.

The game has undergone several changes since 1970s-80s. Once a dominating opponent in the format, two-time World Cup winning team, West Indies have faced severe problems to be in their present dilemma. Apart from this, every decade has seen teams like Australia, India, South Africa and now England rise up the ladder; adding to the competition.

No dancing to calypso tunes?

A certain kind of West Indian (originally Trinidadian) music is always heard in stands filled with their supporters. Just like the players, their fans also have fun (or chill) and enjoy the game to the fullest. The music and dance adds a certain Caribbean flavour, or swagger. Needless to say, it will be disheartening to miss all this if West Indies are left out of the 12th edition of World Cup. However, all is not over. They have few matches left in order to avoid such a situation.

Maybe, it’s not over yet:

The series opener between England and West Indies will be played at Old Trafford, Manchester on Tuesday. Visitors will be on their toes to put their best foot forward. They certainly cannot afford any further hiccups. West Indies will be upbeat with the return of their star players. Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels will form the core of their batting line-up. With a 21-ball 40 in the one-off T20I, Gayle has warmed up well in the tour. A big innings on cards from the 37-year-old?

Evin Lewis and Shai Hope’s current form, Jason Holder’s all-round skills, Ashley Nurse’s off breaks and Jerome Taylor’s pace will be akin to their performances.

West Indies likley XI: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Marlon Samuels, Jason Mohammad, Shai Hope (wk), Jason Holder (c), Rovman Powell, Ashley Nurse, Kerserk Williams, Miguel Cummins, Jerome Taylor

Problem of plenty:

On the other hand, England have problem of plenty. They have many promising players waiting in the wings, following their shambolic World Cup 2015 campaign. While their core remains untouched, they will like to experiment without going overboard. Eoin Morgan and co. have already said that Jonny Bairstow will open for them in the first ODI. Ben Stokes will return after given a rest for the solitary T20I.

Tom Curran and David Willey will be pressing hard for a game as well. Like India, England will also like to test their bench strength keeping 2019 World Cup in mind. Nonetheless, the first ODI will most likely see their best XI on the field. After all, hosts will be eager to take a lead, and thereby pushing West Indies into World Cup qualifiers.

England likely XI: Alex Hales, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett

Trivia:

45 England have won 45 encounters versus West Indies, and lost 42.

1-1 England and West Indies have faced each other in two ODIs at Old Trafford. Both have tasted success and failure once.

3-0 England whitewashed West Indies in the last bilateral series (in March 2017).

Squads:

England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes

West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Jason Mohammed, Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Miguel Cummins, Chris Gayle, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Kesrick Williams

Time: 17: oo IST