There are 14 teams in this tournament. 8 of them are traditional test teams—the first tier of cricket. The other 6—UAE, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Scotland, Bangladesh and Afghanistan—are minnows, even though Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have test status. West Indies are the worst of the best in a way, always the 8th team out of the top 8 teams. Their dwindling status is best represented by the fact that I had to actually find the Captain of the team, Jason Holder, and have no idea how he looks. The WICB and their players have had a torrid relationship for years now, and the dropping of key players Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard only reiterates that this team will once again only defeat the minnows to reach the quarterfinals, and lose to the first competitive team.
In the 2011 World Cup, West Indies lost to England, South Africa and India in their group, and defeated Bangladesh, Ireland and another minnow to scrape through to the quarterfinals. Then they promptly lost to Pakistan by 10 wickets. This campaign was a failure, despite the tag of quarterfinalists—a stage’s mention that would hold respect in any other sport except Cricket. In 2007, West Indies topped their group by defeating Pakistan and finished last in the Super 8s, after facing and losing to almost all the other teams except Bangladesh and Ireland, who had replaced India and Pakistan in the stage. It was Brian Lara’s final ODI tournament, and they lost to England despite posting 303 in their final match of the Super 8s. In 2003, they were brave, riding on a Lara century again to defeat South Africa, but failed to make it to the semifinals again. In 1999, they were knocked out before the semis. In 1996, many will remember their loss to Kenya, but they reached the semis and collapsed against Australia after dominating the match. Richie Richardson, their captain, was left stranded. West Indies are primarily remembered for their utter dominance and rule over world cricket from 1970 to 1992. They won the first two World Cups, and lost in the final in 1983. They defined ODI cricket with the likes of Richards and Haynes teaching the world how to bat in the format. Those haydays feel like centuries ago, and the ruins of that era lie scalded in a team of talented individuals, who hold no temperament for any match that exceeds 20 overs of cricket. They are T20 giants, with the most dangerous batting line-up in the format, but they promptly collapse after the 30th over in ODI cricket.
Chris Gayle is unhappy with the squad selection. However, with Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Ramdin, Smith and Simmons, they do have potential at the top. There is nobody to carry the innings though—which is where Dwayne Bravo would have been useful. Holder hasn’t been significant in their history yet, but this is his opportunity to take over a West Indies team that resembles the tatters South Africa were in when Smith took over at age 23. Benn as their spinner will be crucial, as will the pace duo of Taylor and Roach. They will do well not to lose steam after the first 5 overs, and maintain pressure for large periods of a game. They scared South Africa on a few occasions, only managing to win one match on their tour, after winning the T20 series. Their form is irrelevant, and just getting out of the group stages will be a minor victory. Teams like Ireland and Bangladesh could pose problems to them.
X-Factor: Darren Sammy
Surprise exclusions: Bravo, Pollard
Injured: Sunil Narine