-By Jatin Sharma
Very rarely you get to see a legacy been destroyed so brutally in any form of the sense.
Two-time cricket World Champions in 1975 and 1979, the once mighty West Indies team missed out on direct qualification for the upcoming ICC World Cup in 2019. The West Indies team ended up at the eight position in the ICC ODI rankings, after losing to England in the ODI series, which resulted in Sri Lanka earning the last direct qualification spot for the 2019 World Cup.
Now West Indies will have to participate in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers to be played in Zimbabwe in March 2018. They will be joined by bottom-ranked Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and Ireland; along with the Netherlands, Scotland, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea, with two more teams yet to be determined.
The top two teams from this qualifier will make way into the 2019 World Cup, which will have 10 teams for the first time.
Now the question in front of the once great West Indies team is that whether they will make it to the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales or will the fans see the definite end of one of the greatest legacies of cricket history.
West Indies cricket faced a terrible downfall in the 2000s with most of their great players retired or in the final leg of their careers. They faced resurgence in the T20 format, becoming the only team to win the T20 World cup tournament two times with titles in 2012 and 2016.
They were doing well enough in the One-Day Internationals, reaching the knock out stages in the 2015 World Cup. But the signs of decline were visible, after the player-board dispute in 2014, which led to the boycott of the Indian tour midway.
This led to the West Indies board dropping players like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and many from the team and bringing in youngsters. However, the youngsters were too green to handle the pressures of international cricket and under the helm of a young captain Jason Holder, the West Indies team further slid in the ICC ODI rankings.
Now the Cricket West Indies (CWI) is looking at salvaging their pride and qualifying for the 2019 World Cup will be its topmost priority. It has begun on the right step, with CWI granting amnesty to the players and it has seen the likes of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels back in the ODI and T20I sides.
Unfortunately for them, Dwayne Bravo has effectively ended his international career and is focusing on the T20 leagues all-around the world. Cricket West Indies need him or someone like him to guide the directionless, but talented youngsters to World Cup qualification.
West Indies will be facing an ever-improving Afghanistan team, which gave them plenty of trouble in the recently held ODI series and a rejuvenated Zimbabwe team, which was bolstered by the return of players like Kyle Jarvis and most importantly, Brendon Taylor.
This means the road to 2019 World Cup qualification for West Indies won’t be easy and Cricket West Indies needs to acknowledge the need to send their best team to the qualifier tournament.
Cricket West Indies (CWI) needs to convince their best players in Sunil Narine, Marlon Samuels and others to take part in the qualifiers in Zimbabwe, to give them the maximum chance of beating the upcoming teams from the associate nations.
The combination of the senior players and youngsters should be balanced in order to give West Indies the maximum chances of making it to the 2019 World Cup in England. Thankfully, they are playing on helpful pitches in Zimbabwe and the conditions there help batsmen and spinners.
West Indies needs to channel the energy from every source possible to make sure that they qualify for the 2019 World Cup. CWI needs to provide captain Jason Holder with every support possible to ensure that West Indies team keeps their head high during the qualifying tournament. It can happen only when they can get the best players to play for the team during the tournament and give them the respect they deserve.
Because, if the West Indies team doesn’t qualify for the 2019 World Cup, it will ensure the final nail in the coffin of what is the legacy of the West Indies cricket, once and for all.