“Hence, West Indies seem to have issued a strong statement. You simply cannot take them lightly. The West Indies that played the Qualifiers a year back was a totally different team”
If you take a look down that West Indies line-up, there is no bowler that will garner a lot of attention. There is no player (bowler) in that bottom half who will grab you and tell you, come look at me. With the Gayles, the Russells, the Hetmyers, it’s always hard to gain the spotlight.
In fact, the West Indies team also gave a preview of what might be things to come in this World Cup during the warm-up game against New Zealand. And that is to try and bat teams out. If there is one batting line-up that matches England if not topples it in terms of power, it has to be that of West Indies.
They don’t stop, keep coming one after the other and keep going hard. Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis at the top form an explosive and dynamic duo. With power-hitters like Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Carlos Braithwaite, Jason Holder, it just doesn’t end. Add to this, the ever-reliable and consistent Shai Hope and the elegance of Darren Bravo. This is one powerhouse batting line-up. The sixes and fours see no end if they get going and no target is beyond reach.
However, the Windies pace attack did something that their past heroes and legends would be proud of. They bounced Pakistan into submission in their first game of this World Cup. For once, they stole the limelight away from the batsman and sent a strong message to the world.
But did it look that way at the start of the game? No way, the game was at Trent Bridge, which is one of the flattest wickets (for white-ball cricket) going around in world cricket at the moment. A run-fest beckoned and Holder, knowing the ground dimensions and history, opted to chase. Little did he know that his bowlers, including him, would end the game even before it could take off.
The conditions were overcast but that doesn’t really dictate terms at this ground. England racked up two of the highest-ever ODI scores at Trent Bridge. It’s no secret that Pakistan are vulnerable against the short ball. They struggled to cope with it even in South Africa as well a few months back.
But Sheldon Cottrell and Jason Holder didn’t really start off with the short-ball theory. They tried to bowl line and length with the new ball and did manage to create a few problems, but not a lot. Cottrell got Imam-ul-Haq strangled down leg-side but Zaman was off to a good, promising start. They got very little lateral movement and it was not until Andre Russell came on that the short-ball theory was implemented in full flow.
Russell is a pretty underrated bowler and can be deceptively quick. The first ball he bowled was to Fakhar Zaman and he beat the Pakistan opener with some extra zip and bounce. That might have just encouraged him to go short and the first real short-ball he tried, worked. He hurried Zaman for pace as he struck him on the glove and then grill before the ball went onto the stumps.
Then came another wicket with a pacy short delivery. Haris Sohail was beaten for pace as he feathered one to Shai Hope behind the stumps. That was the spell that triggered the collapse. From then on, the others took cue and banged it in short almost every other time. Oshane Thomas came in and did the same. He is fast, bowls express pace but can leak runs. Even Jason Holder knows that, but he backed the youngster. In the last ODI he played, he had got success with the same ploy against the No. 1 ODI ranked team England. Jason Holder in his second spell went short and it worked wonders.
The Windies pace attack just kept attacking. There was no end. A barrage of short balls and then the sucker ball. The ploy worked excellently. Yes, the likes of Babar Azam and Sarfaraz Ahmed got out to poor strokes and they weren’t really short deliveries, but credit to the Windies pacers who kept the intensity high throughout.
In fact, Pakistan’s innings lasted all of 21.4 overs as West Indies simply blew them away with some serious zip and bounce. The bowling attack was the star. The limelight, for once, was on them. They made a statement that it’s not about the stars (who are mostly the batsmen), they can win and turn games too.
This bowling attack did the same against England a couple of months back in a crucial game which helped the Windies level the series. The plans were somewhat similar as they hit the England batsmen with pace and bounce. It was Oshane Thomas at the forefront that time as well.
Hence, West Indies seem to have issued a strong statement. You simply cannot take them lightly. The West Indies that played the Qualifiers a year back was a totally different team. This one looks like an inspired and a spirited side. Will this type of bowling work against all teams? No. But they’ve shown, it’s not only about the batsmen, but the bowling unit will also play a huge role as well. While the batsmen will keep racking up the scores, but if the West Indies bowlers perform well and keep delivering, they can be a big threat in this World Cup.