MANCHESTER: West Indies captain Jason Holder says he is proud of his players but wants them to put everything together in a ‘perfect’ World Cup performance against India at Old Trafford.
The two-time champions opened their campaign with a convincing victory against Pakistan but have not won since and, barring an unlikely sequence of results, will be heading home after the group phase.
Batsmen Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran and Carlos Brathwaite have shown glimpses of what they can offer but have failed to win games for the team.
Brathwaite hit his maiden One-day International century in West Indies’ ultimately fruitless chase of a target of 292 against New Zealand on Saturday.
Holder urged his team to show fight on Thursday against Virat Kohli’s unbeaten side, who look certain to reach the semi-finals.
“We’ve shown glimpses here and there of what we can produce. And as a side we just haven’t brought it together collectively more often than not,” Holder said at Old Trafford on Wednesday. “And it’s hurt us in games before. So tomorrow is another opportunity for us to bring it all together and play a perfect game.”
The West Indies’ World Cup hopes were hit by injuries to Evin Lewis and Andre Russell, who has been replaced by Sunil Ambris in the squad, but Holder said the batsmen should step up despite the problems.
“Injuries have definitely plagued us. But I’ve been proud of them so far. I think for them it’s just a matter for them to grasp batting on the international circuit,” said Holder. “And I think Shai has done a reasonable job so far. Hety [Hetmyer] has shown glimpses of brilliance, as well as Nicholas. It’s up to them to take it deeper. They’ve got to be the rock and soul for our team.
“And they’ve got to set up games and learn to close them out. And a guy who has done that over the tournament is (New Zealand captain) Kane Williamson.”
West Indies are languishing in eighth spot in the 10-team table with just three points as the group stage nears its conclusion.
“In terms of the squad, I think everybody’s upbeat for the occasion. Playing India is always a big game for West Indies, and we’re looking forward to it,” said Holder. “First we need to finish the campaign as best as we can. And our objective is to win all three games.”
Mohammed Shami, meanwhile, has given Indian team bosses a ‘good headache’ after replacing fellow paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar and taking four wickets, the team’s bowling coach said.
Shami claimed a hat-trick in India’s narrow win over minnows Afghanistan on Saturday as the two-time champions stayed unbeaten to close in on a semi-final spot.
But the paceman’s place in the starting line-up will not be certain once Kumar, who sat out the Afghanistan game with a hamstring strain and was expected to miss two or three matches, regains full fitness.
Bowling coach Bharat Arun said the make-up of the team would depend on conditions.
“Bhuvneshwar’s injury is not of any great concern. It is just a niggle, which we didn’t want to take a chance on,” Arun said. “And it was also an opportunity for us to plug Shami into the games. But the fact he’s done exceptionally well all goes well for us. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
“And we would take a call as per the conditions, but Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar] has done exceptionally well, so I think it’s a pretty good headache to have.”
The 28-year-old Shami is back at the top of his game after dealing with weight issues, injury and a legal quarrel with his estranged wife over the past two years.
He returned figures of 4-40 in Southampton and ended the Afghanistan innings with a hat-trick after being given the responsibility to bowl the final over.
India are familiar with the West Indies, with many of the Caribbean team playing in the Indian Premier League.
“They [West Indies batsmen] do have their strengths. And also it’s a big challenge for the bowlers too — especially when they come after you,” said Arun.
“But whenever batsmen come after you, if you’re willing to look at it deeply, there is a chance in it for the bowlers, and I think that’s what the bowlers would be looking to do. “
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2019