Tough task ahead

West Indies has been in quite dire form coming into the World Cup, winning just seven (six of which have come against Zimbabwe, Canada and Ireland) of 34 games over two years. To make matters complicated, West Indies will have to outdo one of India, South Africa, England or Bangladesh, all of whom are ranked above it in the ICC ODI ratings, to proceed to the next stage, writes Raakesh Natraj.

The squad that the West Indies has picked for the World Cup has fault lines running right through the middle. While the batting line-up has a fair sprinkling of the solid and the flamboyant, it is the bowling that threatens to pull the wheels off the campaign.

Kemar Roach (15 ODIs) is possessed of serious ball speed but will suffer from the lack of a settled partner and, therefore, pressure, from the other end.

Ravi Rampaul has not impressed in the starts that he has been handed and Andre Russel, despite the promise of scorching pace, is as yet untested at this level. The role of the third bowler will be shared between the medium pace of Dwayne Bravo (the only bowler in the squad with more than 100 starts or wickets), Kieron Pollard (32 ODIs, 30 wickets) and Darren Sammy (46 ODIs, 31 wickets). Consider the lack of experience elsewhere as well. Sulieman Benn has just played 19 ODIs and only one in the sub-continent. The other spin option Nikita Miller is hardly the old pro either (36 matches, 30 wickets). Given that this composite lot — two pacemen one of whom is a debutant, three batting all-rounders and two largely inexperienced spinners — will constitute the sum total of the Windies assault force, things look stretched, even without going into the permutations of trying to pick a balanced bowling unit.

When one of the strike bowlers (read Roach or Benn) has an off day, the knock-on effect will leave the batsmen with a little too much to do.

That said, the array of power hitters at its disposal will be every one's envy.

With Chris Gayle at the top of the order partnered by the exciting Adrian Barath, and at least two of Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo and Kieron Pollard to come, anchored by the adhesiveness of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, the batting looks in safe hands.

West Indies has been in quite dire form coming into the World Cup, winning just seven (six of which have come against Zimbabwe, Canada and Ireland) of 34 games over two years. So the conservative approach with the ball, letting the batsmen do the catch-up hasn't really worked.

Secondly, the sporadic nature of the wins suggest that no one plan or theory has worked long enough for it to have evolved into a stratagem. The roles still seem hazy in definition and the combination, untested.

To make matters complicated, West Indies will have to outdo one of India, South Africa, England or Bangladesh, all of whom are ranked above it in the ICC ODI ratings, to proceed to the next stage. If at all there is any credibility to the concept of sport and cricket as entertainment, you can't but see teams like the West Indies play a part in its affirmation.

The neutrals' favourite by a distance, it will not hurt the tournament to see the Windies go far. But if aspersions can be cast upon the premise, what then of the pronouncement?

THE SQUAD