One down, eight more to go.
The West Indies couldn’t have asked for a better start to the International Cricket Council’s World Cup.
Their emphatic seven-wicket victory over Pakistan at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, was just what the doctor ordered, as the regional team began their quest to end a 40-year World Cup championship drought.
This opening salvo of confident victory is as palpable an impact as an earth tremor in our Caribbean islands.
West Indies’ defeats and victories are felt across the Caribbean Sea as if those miles and miles of blue carry the pulse and the emotions of the millions of people living here.
True, the regional team is not a favourite to win the World Cup, which they last won in 1979.
Indeed, Windies are 16-1 odds to go all the way in the tournament.
But most West Indians and lovers of the Caribbean game elsewhere would be bitterly disappointed if the regional side does not make it at least to the knockout stage.
WI have been identified by cricket pundits as “the team to watch” and the team most likely to cause a major upset in the competition.
That they are not installed as favourites is simply because of their consistent inconsistencies.
Today’s showing though, in inflicting Pakistan’s biggest World Cup defeat, should go a long way to help build confidence not only for the players but their supporters.
Like the embers of a fire, the news quickly spread that the Windies had achieved victory, sparking debates and conversations in buses, rum shops and even in offices, about the side’s chances of winning the tournament.
It was extremely comforting, satisfying and entertaining to watch Andre Russell and Oshane Thomas running in with much effort, as they peppered the Pakistani batsmen with short balls, an obvious team strategy.
They both clocked 90 miles per hour consistently and none of the opponents’ batters ever looked settled against their fiery pace.
The 22-year-old Thomas, playing in his first-ever World Cup, bowled with maturity beyond his years, while Russell, known more for his explosive batting, put the world on notice that he was just as devastating with the ball as he is with the bat.
Chris Gayle was his usual dominant self as he spanked the ball to all parts of the ground during a quickfire half-century, to help lead the West Indies to victory with 218 balls to spare.
While the Windies will no doubt revel in their historic win, they will be well aware that much tougher opposition looms in their next match – Australia.
Although the Aussies are ranked fifth, just one spot higher than Pakistan, they are among the favourites to win the World Cup.
They have been given 4-1 victory odds. Only the home side, England, with odds of 2-1, are favoured more.
Earlier this year, the Windies beat England in our home Test series and then tied the One Day International series 2-2.
On their day, West Indies are fully capable of beating anyone, especially with such stars as Gayle, Russell, Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer leading the charge.
They are by no means the fearsome West Indies of the mid-to-1970’s when Clive Lloyd led them to back to back World Cups.
Despite this, the West Indies team have the backing of six million inhabitants, who want nothing more than to see their countrymen lift the coveted silverware.
For the next month, all eyes will be glued to televisions, cellphones and tablets, following the Windies’ progress.
Quoting the anthem of West Indies cricket from David Rudder’s 1987 classic song, let’s all rally around the West Indies. Let’s support them on their journey as they aim to put the Caribbean on the top of world cricket, just like they did in 2016 when they captured the ICC World Twenty20 so spectacularly.
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