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WI must radically change ODI approach

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The 0-4 thrashing of the West Indies by England in the just concluded One-Day International (ODI) cricket series in England underlined the extent to which limited overs cricket has changed over recent years.

It also provided graphic illustration of a major reason West Indies will have to play in a qualifying tournament against lesser-ranked teams if they are to make it to the ICC 50-over (ODI) World Cup in England in 2019.

Now more than ever before, teams must seek to maximise scoring opportunities, not just with power hitting considered typical of the WI, but with innovative stroke play and by running as hard as possible for every run. Also, bowlers need to be consistent and fielders must be optimally efficient in every facet. Today, more than ever before, international cricketers must be physically fit to properly serve their teams.

Those are the immediate lessons which Cricket West Indies, cricketers and their handlers must take forward as they prepare for next year's qualifying tournament.

Some probably expected the West Indies ODI team to have done much better in England, despite the series being scheduled in September — not an ideal time for cricket in that country, especially for people from warmer climes.

Optimism was fed by the spirited performance of the young Test team, which was unceremoniously written off by many after badly losing the first Test. Readers will recall that Mr Jason Holder's men won the second Test in style and fought hard in the third, though in the end England won easily in conditions which heavily favoured them.

The inclusion of Messrs Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels in the West Indies ODI squad following relaxation of the amateur-driven, outdated eligibility rule meant West Indies were stronger on paper.

As it turned out, Mr Samuels — a star of the triumphant 2012 and 2016 ICC Twenty20 World Cup campaigns — looked a shadow of his old self and at age 36 may well have played his last ODI.

On the other hand, Mr Gayle, at 38, showed continued worth with his phenomenal power hitting, though his running between wickets left much to be desired.

Above all else, the ODI series showed yet again that for West Indies to reach and compete at the next World Cup they must revolutionise their approach to ODI cricket in much the same way as England and other international teams have done.

To illustrate: yesterday's West Indies score of 288-6 in 50 overs even on a good pitch would have been considered respectable a decade ago. But England cantered to a nine-wicket win with 12 overs to spare. And in the fourth-ODI on Wednesday, WI — driven by Mr Evin Lewis's outstanding 130-ball 176 — piled up 356-5 in 50 overs. But such was England's rate of scoring in reply that they still won on the Duckworth-Lewis method when rain brought a premature end.

In terms of World Cup qualification next year, the heartening thing from the just-ended ODI tour is that several talented young batsmen have put their hands in the air. Young players such as Messrs Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Rovman Powell and Sunil Ambris looked good. Others such as Messrs Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase and Shimron Hetmyer are waiting.

The challenge now will be to find the bowlers to back them up and to get fitness and efficiency levels to a point where it's all systems go.