It all started in March in the series-decider between West Indies and England at the Gros Islet in St Lucia. England were leading 2-1 and another series defeat loomed over Windies’ head. Remember, they haven’t won an ODI series since August 2014. Yes, they’ve returned empty-handed in almost every 50-over tournament in the last five years.
However, it all changed on that day in March. The West Indies pace attack came out all guns firing. They had been belted around throughout the series and the only time they delivered, Windies ended up on the winning side. Hence, they did it again. But this time it was in typical Caribbean style and they bounced the England batsmen into submission and bowled them out for a mere 113.
Mind you, this was the No. 1 ranked ODI side and the best batting side in the world. They make 300 and more for fun and they were blown away by a relatively inexperienced pace attack comprising Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell and Carlos Braithwaite along with skipper Jason Holder. They ran in, pounded the pitch and troubled the England batsmen in that game.
They made a statement. Not a lot of them noticed but it was indeed a statement. It was a warning from the Windies pacers that they cannot be taken lightly, that they can inflict the damage. However, nobody really remembers this encounter with all teams focusing on the build-up to the World Cup.
Just a couple of months before the all-important World Cup, they had managed to hold the No. 1 ranked ODI side for a 2-2 draw in a five-match ODI series. The addition of Chris Gayle boosted the batting line-up and the tall scores returned. The batting which was full of promise now got a good shape and with the inclusion of Andre Russell for the World Cup, it looked like one of the most destructive batting line-ups in the competition.
Bowlers steal the limelight
Come World Cup and it was expected that the batting stalwarts would hog all the limelight with the flat pitches and shortish boundaries. However, the Windies pacers had other ideas. West Indies have played two games so far and all the talk has been about the fast bowlers.
Right from the first game, Windies showed that they meant business, especially with the ball. Everybody knows their ability with the bat, but it was with the ball where the doubt was. However, they squashed every single bit of it as they blew away Pakistan in no time. They used their pace and bounce to great effect as they reminded everybody that they are no pushovers. Australia found out soon after as they were in trouble as well as the Windies pacers repeated the same dose against them.
Barring Jason Holder who can be canny and generate some awkward bounce, all the other bowlers have the pace to trouble the opposition batsmen and they’ve done exactly that. They’ve used the short ball brilliantly and it’s just not been short all the time. They’ve mixed it up really well and have mainly used it as a delivery to set batsmen up. If you look back at the wickets, not every batsman has fallen to the short ball. But it’s the setup and follow up that’s done them in.
Twenty-two-year-old Oshane Thomas has led the charge. He did it against England in that game in March and has continued it here in England. The inclusion of Andre Russell has not only boosted the batting line-up but it has given the bowling line-up a lot of teeth as well. He has the ability to crank up high pace and can trouble the batsman. Holder and Cottrell have started well with the new ball and Carlos Braithwaite has been a decent back-up. Remember, there is Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel waiting in the wings and they are no mugs as well. They have the ability to do the same as well.
Hence, in the first two games, West Indies have sent out a message. They gave a warning back in March and no one paid any heed to it. They’ve continued what they started in March against England. They have now built a new reputation. Not quite like the old, great, legendary Windies pacers, but still a strong one. But now, it’s up to these pacers to keep up the newly built reputation.
They next face South Africa, a team which the Windies pacers don’t really have a great record against. However, that was in the past. Their new reputation has made the world sit up and take notice. The question is, how long can they carry this reputation? Will it last through this World Cup?