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West Indies fans demand victory
The 2018 ICC World Cup Qualifier tournament began on Sunday with Papua New Guinea (PNG) coming up against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Harare, Zimbabwe. Imagine PNG vs UAE; I suppose one can argue that with those two teams opening the qualifiers, cricket has grown internationally over the last few years. There are 10 teams (excluding Kenya which is disappointing as their cricket seems to have gone backwards) vying for two spots at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 to be contested in England and Wales from May 30th to July 14th 2019.
This Qualifier is far more high profile than in previous years simply because there are four full member ICC countries playing which includes the once mighty West Indies. The stakes are extremely high as all West Indians will be trying to look at the games that are being shown. Unfortunately only 10 games will be televised - West Indies vs Ireland, West Indies vs Netherlands, seven of the Super Sixes matches and the Final.
The tournament playing conditions are very interesting as it can allow a team that has a bad start the ability to pick up form at the latter stages of the group matches and still qualify for the final. The way it works is the ten teams are divided into two groups of five. The top three from each group advance to the Super Sixes stage, there the teams play three games each against the teams which they did not meet in the group stage. All the points won in the group stage will be carried over to the Super Sixes stage apart from those points gained against the bottom two from each group. Sounds complicated, right? I suppose the powers that be wanted or hope the two most consistent teams will eventually come through to the final.
The burning question on all West Indies supporters' lips is can we be one of the two teams to qualify? Of course we can, and we should. If in fact the unthinkable happens and we fail to qualify for the 2019 World Cup, it would be a disaster in proportion to the unsinkable Titanic on its maiden voyage. It is unfortunate that we do not have our strongest squad in Zimbabwe to ensure qualification, but the team is still equipped with ammunition to come away victorious if they play with determination, aggression, heart and use their experience at International level to overcome the opposition. All in all, the West Indies is the team to beat.
Ireland, Zimbabwe (at home) Afghanistan (with Phil Simmons at the helm) should be the teams to challenge the Windies. Looking at the start of the tournament, Scotland has sprung the first surprise by beating Afghanistan by seven wickets - chasing down a challenging total of 255 and then the Afghans lost by two runs to the Zimbabweans. They will have a lot of ground to make up. In this group, the Scotland v Zimbabwe game should determine the winners. Nepal and Hong Kong should just make up the numbers.
Apart from Ireland, West Indies should literally close their eyes and whip all before them. They made a great start against the UAE with the illustrious Chris Gayle and the talented Shimron Hetmyer getting scintillating centuries. My concern with the victory is the form of Marlon Samuels, but he tends to come good as the tournament progresses. Let us hope by the time the Irish game comes around on Saturday, he would have gotten some runs against PNG. Another concern which is a bit more worrying was the bowling in allowing the UAE to score 297 for six. Roach conceded 60 runs from 10 overs, Miller 59 from 10 and Nurse 61 from nine. They have got to tighten up or when we come up against the better teams we could be in trouble.
Let's keep our heads up although I am sure they will get it right even though the schedule is tough as the group games are just 2 days apart. Nothing less than victory will be demanded from the West Indian fans throughout the region.
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