WINDIES STORM CLOUD
West Indies slump while Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka in pole position to grab Cricket World Cup qualifying spots
West Indies are on the verge of missing the 50-over World Cup for the first time in their history after back-to-back defeats to Netherlands and Zimbabwe.
Competition for the final two places for the 10-team 50-over World Cup in India in October and November this year is heating up with two-time champions West Indies on the brink of missing qualification for the first time in their history.
The league phase of the One Day International (ODI) World Cup qualifiers, played in Zimbabwe, has seen a number of surprise results, including West Indies losing to the host nation by 35 runs before a dramatic Super Over loss to the Netherlands on Monday.
The Super Six stage commences on Thursday with a match between Zimbabwe and bottom-of-the Super Six table Oman, with Netherlands, West Indies, Sri Lanka and Scotland as the other teams who progressed to the final stage of qualification.
“Certainly, there is going to be a lot of pain and hurt in the dressing room,” West Indies captain Shai Hope said on Tuesday after the Caribbean side’s defeat to the Netherlands.
“But we know that still there’s always a chance for us to move to the next step. So, we’re always communicating amongst each other.
“The main thing is to get the guys as uplifted as possible to make sure we get the best result going into the next game.”
Because of their two defeats to fellow Super Six competitors, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe, the West Indies start the final stage of qualification second from bottom on the log.
Teams carry points accumulated from wins against fellow Super Six opponents in the group stage into the next round. Meaning Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka take four points into the next stage, Netherlands and Scotland start on two points while Zimbabwe and Oman have zero.
“That [disappointment among fans in the Caribbean] is completely understandable. One thing I can guarantee is you guys can never be as deflated as us,” Hope added.
“The results won’t always go our way, but we definitely need to find ways to turn it around very quickly.”
It will take a special performance from the Windies, as well as a slew of other results to go their way to make an appearance at the showpiece event in India later this year a possibility. This after West Indies failed to qualify for the 20-over World Cup in Australia at the end of last year.
“I understand the journey I have to take with this team,” said newly appointed coach Daren Sammy, who captained the West Indies to a pair of T20 World Cup titles.
“Sometimes you’ve got to reach rock bottom to come back up. I understand the challenges ahead and I also understand that things will not change overnight.
“It’s a true reflection of where our cricket is at the moment. We have a lot of work to do.”
Zimbabwe on top
The host nation, meanwhile, have been in indomitable form in front of their buoyant home crowd. They’ve thumped Nepal (by eight wickets), Netherlands (by six wickets), West Indies (by 35 runs) and USA (by 304 runs) in their opening matches to remain undefeated and sit in second place in the Super Six stage.
“We have found our momentum and we are looking forward to carrying it,” said Chevrons batter Sean Williams, who scored 174 in Monday’s rout of the USA.
Zimbabwe will play their final three matches, against Oman, Sri Lanka and Scotland at Bulawayo opposed to Harare where they played their four prior matches.
“It’s a different venue, and everything about it is different but still having that crowd behind us is always like having a 12th man,” Williams added.
If they maintain their strong net-run rate, the Chevrons only need to win two of their remaining three matches in order to seal their qualification.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, sit in pole position to nab the other qualifying spot. They are also unbeaten, having pummelled UAE (by 175 runs), Oman (by 10 wickets), Ireland (by 133 runs) and Scotland (by 82 runs).
Their demolishing performances have seen them accumulate the highest net-run rate thus far.
Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga has led the attack on the tired surfaces, collecting 18 scalps in four matches including three consecutive five-wicket hauls.
“He’s a champion. Whenever I throw him the ball, he delivers for me,” Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka said about the wily spinner.
Sri Lanka, however, face a determined Netherlands side on Friday who will carry the confidence of their win over West Indies into the match.
“We’re good enough to compete against the best teams in the world; we’re just getting better,” said Logan van Beek, whose heroics in Monday’s Super Over stunned the West Indies.
Van Beek struck 30 runs in the Super Over before conceding eight runs and taking two wickets in the five balls he bowled in the deathly over.
“The more we play the best teams, the better we get. And the more funding we get, the more players we get, and we deserve to be on that level,” said Van Beek, whose grandfather, Sammy Guillen, played five Tests for the Windies.
The Netherlands face Oman and Scotland after their clash against Sri Lanka but will likely need to win all three matches in the Super Six to be assured of a place at the World Cup. DM