Batsmen will propel their charge
The form of the West Indies on overseas tours has not been anything to write home about in recent years and they didn't even get to the "Super Six" stage in the last World Cup, so they are obviously not among the favourites for the 2003 edition in South Africa. But they must take heart from their latest one-day performances away from home — in India and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is not a team one should beat and boast about, but beating India in India was a pretty good performance. That win in the seven-match series was very much due more to the strength of the batting than the bowling.
The bowling department, mainly fast bowlers, should be a bit more effective on the harder, quicker South African pitches and it has been strengthened by the addition of Nixon McLean who has experience of South African conditions.
But the batsmen again will be the main focus. They have already had a bit of bad luck with the late withdrawal from the squad of Marlon Samuels due to injury, but Brian Lara, who wasn't available for the tour of India, should more than make up for Samuels' absence.
That's providing of course, that his absence from the game hasn't dulled his form or enthusiasm. His last innings for the West Indies saw him getting a century in the ICC Trophy and no one needs to be reminded of his ability. Lara’s 15 centuries and 48 fifties, with a strike rate of just over 78, make him a match winner.
Lara has over 200 one-day games under his belt and the other member of the team with over 200 games is captain, Carl Hooper.
Hooper's record isn't quite as impressive as Lara's (seven centuries and 29 fifties), but Lara is Lara. And, considering that these days Hooper is content to put himself a bit lower in the order, it's his strike rate that will be more important as the innings winds down — in that sphere he is comparable with just over 76 runs per 100 balls.
That's the top end of the tree as far as experience is concerned but some of the younger brigade came good in India and are expected to play major roles in South Africa as well.Hinds and Gayle, gave the team a solid platform more times than never at the top of the innings with Gayle, in particular, not just getting big scores but getting them at a phenomenal rate.
His strike rate currently stands at over 80 with four centuries and 14 half centuries in just 62 games. Hinds has just one century but 10 half centuries which verifies the story of more good starts than bad.
These two will be followed by Ramnaresh Sarwan. He and the now missing Samuels were really impressive in India. Sarwan only has 29 one-day games under his belt but has a century and five half centuries with a strike rate of just over 79 and undoubtedly is on the way up. Don't forget also the ever reliable Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
He is capable of playing his part anywhere in the batting order and usually the man for a crisis with his cool head and calculated thinking.
That without doubt is a strong batting line-up and if they adopt similar tactics to those that proved successful in India, that is, chase targets instead of setting them, they could surprise a few sceptics. (TCM)
(Michael Holding will be writing exclusively for HT during the World Cup)
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