There has been something extraordinary about West Indies’ 2015 World Cup campaign so far. They were embarrassed by Ireland in their opening match before coming back to get the better of Pakistan rather flamboyantly. As such, they headed into the match against Zimbabwe at Canberra on a high. But, West Indies being the kind of unpredictable side that they are, Zimbabwe would have been hopeful of catching them off guard. Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, it wasn’t to be the case. On the contrary, they met two of the team’s most talented yet maverick batsmen at the height of their powers.
Going into the World Cup, the form of dashing opener Chris Gayle was the biggest concern for West Indies apart from of course the fact that they would have to do without two of their key players in Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. In the first two matches, the left-hander did not give any hint of returning to form. If anything, the eyebrows only grew wider as Gayle looked completely out of sync. However, with players like Gayle, one thing is for sure, if it is their day, form would automatically find its way into their batting.
Like Shikhar Dhawan, Gayle is also a confidence player, and once he got his eye in at Canberra nothing mattered to him. The left-hander has developed a pattern to his play in recent times wherein he is very happy playing out dot balls early in the innings so that he can get his eye in. The move has backfired as well, most notably against Ireland when he finished with a rather embarrassing strike rate. But, on days when he gets his act right, like he did at against Zimbabwe, the time spent out in the middle translates into big runs.
A win against Zimbabwe isn’t a massive achievement for West Indies. They should have backed themselves to beat Zimbabwe even with the current weakened outfit. But, the manner in which Gayle, along with Marlon Samuels outplayed Zimbabwe with the bat was most mesmerising. This is something we know West Indies cricket is still eminently capable of even though their glory days are well behind them. Not only against Zimbabwe, but against Pakistan too, their performance was highly convincing. It remains to be seen now whether West Indies can translate this rich vein of form into more impressive performances as the tournament progresses further.
As for Zimbabwe, they should try to forget their bowling performance in the game as a nightmare that may never occur. Of course, they have a lot to worry in the bowling since David Miller and JP Duminy also treated them with utter disdain in their first match of the tournament. It has been Zimbabwe’s batting that has kept them afloat in the series. The likes of Sean Williams, Craig Ervine have been particularly impressive. But, to succeed against bigger teams, Zimbabwe will need a much more rounded effort by their men.
--By A Cricket Analyst