Time rolls on: West Indies return to site of World Cup triumphs

  • Windies won the tournament in England in each of its 1st two editions
- ASSOCIATED PRESS, LONDON

May 26, 2019-

The Cricket World Cup in England may serve as a reminder that the luster the tournament enjoys and the popularity of the one-day game derives to a large extent from the contribution of the West Indies.

The Windies won the tournament in England in each of its first two editions, in 1975 and in ‘79, and in doing so gave credibility to a one-day format which was in its infancy, and in a precarious state, when the World Cup was launched. Only 18 one-day internationals had been played between full ICC member nations when the World Cup was first staged and many cricket fans, weaned on Test match cricket, viewed the shorter game with skepticism if not hostility. The performances of the West Indies pioneers, led by Clive Lloyd and featuring Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Andy Roberts and Lance Gibbs, won many fans to the then-60 overs game. The final, in which Richards ran out three Australians, crowned a tournament in which some leading players were still coming to grips with a new style: Sunil Gavaskar famously batted all 60 overs for 36 runs, infuriating India fans.

By 1979 one-day cricket had become widely popular and the West Indies were early masters of the game, just as they would come to dominate the test arena for much of the next decade. Richards led them to a win over England in the final, scoring 138, while Joel Garner took 5-38 as England lost 8-11 in a 92-run defeat.

The West Indies were World Cup runner-up in 1983, losing the final to India at Lord’s, and it marked the beginning of a decline. The intervening 36 years have not always been kind. The Windies have recently reasserted themselves as world Twenty20 champions and that new-found strength in short-form cricket has begun to spill over into the 50-overs game.

For the first time in years, the West Indies has a team which might go close to winning the tournament. The top of the order features the imposing figure of Chris Gayle, who has been handed the additional responsibility of vice-captaincy. Gayle, 39, compiled two centuries and two half-centuries in the West Indies’ recent series against England in the Caribbean.

“As a senior player it’s my responsibility to support the captain and everyone else in the team,” says Gayle, who retired from ODI cricket briefly after the 2015 World Cup but made a return two years later.  

The middle order is solid with Darren Bravo capable of taking the role of accumulator, and their wealth is in their hard-hitting allrounders, including Andre Russell and Kieron Powell. Shai Hope and Nicholas Pooran provide wicketkeeping options and the bowling attack is sound and experienced, led by the veterans Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel. Spin bowling will be important, and the West Indies will rely on Ashley Nurse and the youngster Fabien Allen.

Coach Floyd Reifer says the World Cup will be won by bowlers. “Looking at the pitches in England in the county circuit, they are very high-scoring,” Reifer says.  The West Indies will return to the site of past World Cup triumphs with their best chance in years to be part of the later rounds, a boost for them and the tournament and a boon for fans.

Published: 26-05-2019 09:23

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