Pool B: West Indies need Gayle force to revive past glory

Sheldon Cottrell of the West Indies is congratulated by Chris Gayle of the West Indies for getting Reeza Hendricks of South Africa during the 1st KFC T20 International match between South Africa and West Indies at Sahara Park Newlands on January 09, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Getty)

Once the undisputed kings of cricket, two-time champions West Indies head for the World Cup plagued by infighting, political intrigue and poor form.

The fear factor once generated by the world's fastest and most intimidating battery of pace bowlers has given way to a pop-gun attack and a batting line-up which too often relies on the mercurial talents of Chris Gayle.

Until their dramatic one-wicket win in Port Elizabeth, their previous three matches saw them swept aside by South Africa with the Proteas, one of the favourites for the World Cup, coasting to wins by 61 runs, 148 runs and nine wickets.

Where once the West Indies made history, now they are a footnote - their defeat to South Africa in Johannesburg last weekend saw them concede 439 runs, and take just two wickets.

AB de Villiers romped to the fasted ODI century in history off just 31 balls. Three days later, the West Indies were bowled out for just 122.

The West Indies need an in-form and motivated Gayle at the World Cup where they will face defending champions India, Pakistan, South Africa, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates in the opening pool games.

The 35-year-old Gayle has played 262 ODIs with 8,881 runs to his name but his recent form has been poor.

He has just one half-century in his last 16 innings and seems to thrive only in the Twenty20 format where he has become an international batsman for hire.

Gayle was out for just one in the nine-wicket loss to South Africa in East London last week and there remain serious questions over his attitude after he accused selectors of victimisation for dropping Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the World Cup squad.

Bravo was captain last year when the West Indies abandoned their tour of India over a pay dispute.

Barbados fast bowler Jason Holder, just 23, has been installed as captain for the World Cup.

The squad does not lack experience with Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin and Darren Sammy all having played over a 100 ODIs while opener Dwayne Smith is closing in on the three-figure mark.

"I believe we have selected a very good team which will do West Indies proud at the World Cup," said Clive Lloyd, the West Indies chairman of selectors and the man who skippered the team to the 1975 and 1979 World Cup wins.

The responsibility of taking wickets will fall on the shoulders of seamer Kemar Roach and off-break bowler Sunil Narine.

Roach became just the sixth bowler to claim a hat-trick in a World Cup on his way to career-best figures of 6-27 against the Netherlands in 2011.

He was the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 13 wickets from six matches as West Indies made the quarter-finals, their best run since 1996.

Narine has 73 wickets from his 52 ODIs but in a further sign of tensions in the set-up, he was one of two players to turn down the offer of a central contract from the West Indies board last month.

Factfile:

Squad
: Jason Holder (captain), Marlon Samuels, Sulieman Benn, Darren Bravo, Jonathan Carter, Sheldon Cottrell, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Denesh Ramdin, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith, Jerome Taylor
Coach: Stuart Williams

Fixtures - Pool B:

Feb 16: Ireland, Nelson
Feb 21: Pakistan, Christchurch
Feb 24: Zimbabwe, Canberra
Feb 27: South Africa, Sydney
Mar 06: India, Perth
Mar 15: UAE, Napier

World Cup record:

1975: Champions
1979: Champions
1983: Runners-up
1987: Pool stage
1992: Pool stage
1996: Semi-finals
1999: Pool stage
2003: Pool stage
2007: Super Eights
2011: Quarter-finals

Key player:

Chris Gayle


One of his struggling team's few world class performers, capable of stunning, muscular pyrotechnics with the bat - he is the only player in the history of the game to hit the first ball of a Test match for six.

The 35-year-old is closing in on 9,000 ODI runs and boasts an average of almost 40 with a high score of 153.

He has also become a consummate master of the short-form Twenty20 where his 90 off 41 balls earlier this month helped West Indies to a record-setting win against South Africa.

Had a dismal 2011 World Cup where he managed just one half-century against the minnows of the Netherlands.
 

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