© Getty Images
West Indies are weakened with the absence of some of their key players, but they have the firepower to cause a few upsets© Getty Images

West Indies head into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 amidst a simmering player-board dispute, which threatens to undermine their campaign. The mood in the West Indies camp is rather sombre following the omission of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard combined with the pull out of Sunil Narine.  Ankur Dhawan assesses what ticks for the West Indies and their shortcomings.

Recent form: If history is an indicator teams that have won the World Cup in the past have enjoyed successful seasons preceding the event. West Indies have had a terrible year and have been in a shambles since the premature conclusion to the tour of India. The solidarity shown by teammates for Bravo and Pollard off the field notwithstanding, they have generally failed to channel their angst with the board into performances of note on the field. The tour of South Africa yet again highlighted the brittleness of the inexperienced West Indies squad that seems to wilt under pressure against top teams. Losing, like winning, is a habit and West Indies are deeply entrenched in the former. Momentum has eluded them in the run up to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

Strengths: One would have to break the earth down and excavate positives considering the harrowing state of West Indian cricket, but the presence of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels at the top of the order will keep opposing captains on their toes. Although Gayle in recent times has failed to a deliver a sustained onslaught, teams should take an individual of his titanic ability, lightly at their own peril.

Samuels’ evolution as a batsman has been heartening. He is probably at the peak of his power and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 should bring out the best in a player who loves to bask in the limelight.

In Andre Russell, the West Indies have bragging rights over an all-rounder of inimitable dexterity. The equivalent of James Faulkner from Australia, Russell gave a thorough account of his irrefutable talent with a match-winning cameo against South Africa in the fourth One-Day International (ODI) of the five-match series.

If the dynamic trinity of Gayle, Samuels and Russell click in unison, West Indies will have a glimmer of hope. The flawed format of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 itself doesn’t necessarily demand or reward consistency, which could play into the hands of the West Indies, who basically need to play out of their skin thrice to take home the trophy.

Weaknesses: Shortcomings galore for the men in maroon. Denuded of the services of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard the batting has a top heavy facade.  The fact that veterans, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who are well past their prime, could still walk into the squad shows the current bunch in a poor light.

The large grounds in Australia are far from congenial to their style of play, which is based on a hit and miss methodology. The inclination is to attack full throttle or block. Majority of their batsmen oscillate between the two extremes. Their mercurial squad has a penchant for blowing hot and cold.  Sans the finesse, or the ability to rotate the strike during the middle overs, the West Indies are handicapped. Unless they mysteriously rid themselves of the aforementioned encumbrance, West Indies run the risk of being consistently asphyxiated once the mandatory field restrictions are lifted.

Sunil Narine’s absence conspicuously exposes the impenetrability of the bowling attack. A less gifted combination of Sulieman Benn and Nikita Miller doesn’t exude much confidence either. The fast bowling is steady at best but bereft of skill in the death overs. Bravo’s absence is once again highlighted in that drawback.

Finally, West Indies embark upon their journey under a rookie skipper who struggled to marshal his troops on a tough first assignment against South Africa.

They aren’t going to give anybody sleepless nights owing to the lack of depth and experience of winning matches. Besides their volatility leaves them liable to slip up against one of the minnows which could mean kissing the quarter-final berth goodbye. In all likelihood though, they’= will live up to expectations and meekly crash out in an anti-climatic quarter-final.

Squad: Jason Holder (c), Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Andre Russell, Sheldon Cottrell, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Johnathan Carter, Lendl Simmons and Darren Sammy.

(Ankur Dhawan is a reporter with CricketCountry. Heavily influenced by dystopian novels, he naturally has about 59 conspiracy theories for every moment in the game of cricket. On finding a direct link between his head and the tip of his fingers, he also writes about it)