Uneasy India seek new high in WI

UPHILL CLIMB With 2019 World Cup qualification on the line, Windies players will have to keep winning, sort issues

PORT-OF-SPAIN: Important as this series might be for two-time world champions West Indies for qualification to 2019 World Cup, the main concern for the Trinidadians isn’t cricket just yet even as the series with India begins here on Friday.

The selectors will be keeping a close eye on Yuvraj Singh’s performances in the series against the Windies.

Tropical storm Bret has left such a streak of devastation, wiping out millions of dollars in property in south Trinidad that cricket has been pushed way down the priority and news list.

Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy, a St Lucian, who was unceremoniously sacked via a 30-second call in August last year despite being a two-time World T20 champion skipper, however, has his eye on cricket and gives his side little chance of making it to the 2019 edition.

They are 16 points adrift of eighth-placed Sri Lanka in the ICC ODI rankings and have time till September 30 to displace them and earn a direct qualification that is given to top eight nations. If they fail, which seems likely even if they do well against India, they’ll be competing with non-Test nations for a spot. Sammy, however, feels they’ll struggle to beat even non-Test nations and make it to World Cup 2019.

“Qualifying for the last two spots, that’s not even guaranteed. It is difficult to beat Ireland in their conditions. We just saw Scotland beat Zimbabwe, so all kinds of countries are improving.

Just like Bangladesh have improved and gone past us and we saw in the last World Cup where Ireland defeated us as well, so it is a long way to go. I think with the way we structure our cricket, we’re going nowhere,” Sammy told the media here.

West Indies’ top players haven’t been playing, as rules don’t allow them to feature in the team without playing a required number of domestic games.

However, an India shaken by captain-coach fallout and by a crushing loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final should give them some respite even though there are enough big names in India line-up that can bother the home side that lost to Afghanistan only this month.

The Indians turned up for practice on Thursday afternoon in what was their first one after Anil Kumble’s resignation. They had stayed back at the team hotel on Wednesday.

Kumble had in fact taken charge in June last year and the West Indies Test series was his first assignment. India won that handsomely. They’ve been playing non-stop cricket since then and have been largely coasting through.

The series against a depleted West Indies team could be a mismatch but then the recent developments will give the home side hope.

Former West Indies cricketer Gus Logie, who was part of the glorious side of the 1980s, feels India are outright favourites but the recent happenings give West Indies some hope. “But it could be a double-edged sword. India and Virat Kohli are hurting after that Champions Trophy final loss and they might take the anger out on West Indies just like we did back in 1983 just after the World Cup.”

After losing the 1983 World Cup final to India, the Caribbean side, with Logie part of it, toured India and smashed the daylights out of their opponents.

Skipper Virat Kohli, criticised by former players like Sunil Gavaskar for forcing the exit of Anil Kumble, will have a point to prove. Anything less than a 5-0 win in the ODIs would be considered a setback and set the tongues wagging. KHURRAM HABIB

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