MANCHESTER, England – Unpredictable West Indies face the improbable task of whitewashing favourites England in their five-match One-Day International series starting tomorrow, as they chase a quickly dissipating dream of direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup.
The Caribbean side’s recent poor form has seen them plunge to number nine in the ICC ODI rankings, with only hosts England and the remaining top seven sides by the September 30 cut-off date later this month, gaining automatic berths at the showpiece in England.
What makes a whitewash even more difficult for the Windies is the fact they have not beaten England in a one-day series in 10 years and are without a series success over a top-six side in the ICC rankings in five years.
They have won just three of their last 20 ODIs and even struggled against minnows Bangladesh in a three-match series in the Caribbean in June, managing only a 1-1 draw.
While stressing that a clean sweep of the hosts was not an impossibility, however, captain Jason Holder was also under no illusions about the massive challenge before his squad, pointing out the need to play at their best in order to get the results needed.
“It’s not going to be an easy task but it’s not impossible. I think that win there in Durham from the T20 team has given the side a boost,” the all-rounder told a media conference today ahead of the day/night affair at Old Trafford.
“A few of the guys are overlapping into this one series so hopefully these guys can ride on the back of that game and hopefully bring it (momentum) into this series.
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time. I think we need to win 5-0 to qualify which wouldn’t be easy but as I said before wouldn’t be impossible as well.
“I’ve stressed in the dressing room [the need for] consistency. I think if we are consistent with our performances and basically our processes, I think we will give ourselves a really good chance of winning the series.”
West Indies have been boosted by the return of the experienced Jamaican pair of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, after Cricket West Indies freed them for selection by temporarily shelving the controversial eligibility rule.
The embattled side now have at their disposal two players with 456 ODIs between them and Holder hopes their presence can help garner the results required.
“We’re just hoping that these guys can put in some really good performances,” he noted.
“Chris looked really good in the T20 game and he’s been carrying some form in our T20 tournament back home so hopefully that can translate that into this one-day series and he can get us off to a really good start with his partner Evin Lewis.”
Samuels’s first appearance in an ODI in nearly a year is expected to take on special significance as he is likely to renew his heated rivalry with England all-rounder Ben Stokes.
The pair clashed during a Test series in the Caribbean two years ago and then again at last year’s Twenty20 World Cup in India, potentially setting the stage for even more fireworks over the next two weeks.
And even though Holder said Samuels was free to express himself, he said of greater worth was his contribution to team results.
“Marlon is one competitive guy and he likes a good competition. Whether that (feud with Stokes) is something beneficial to him, he would have to decide that. I can’t really sit here and tell you,” Holder said.
“Whatever Marlon needs to do to get himself fired up I’m quite happy for him to do it, once it is within the spirit of the game and he doesn’t go too overboard.
“But Marlon has been a really good player for us over the years especially in one day cricket and hopefully he can bring that stability in the middle order for us and bat deep into the innings, and put us in a really great position and give our bowlers something to work with.”
The younger brigade including the likes of rising Test star Shai Hope, his older brother Kyle Hope, Lewis and Kesrick Williams, will also be expected to carry much of the burden for the Windies performances.
And though there was heavy importance on the series, Holder stressed he would not be shackling his players.
“Obviously player management comes in and just giving players the license and freedom to play their roles as best as they possibly can,” he said.
“That’s one part of it. The rest is ideally down to them to execute so I try to give everybody the leeway to execute their games so hopefully our guys can come in and put on a really good show in this series.”
The contest bowls off at 12:30 pm (7:30 am Eastern Caribbean time).
ENGLAND – Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Jake Ball, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes.
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Jason Mohammed (vice-captain), Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Miguel Cummins, Chris Gayle, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Kesrick Williams.