Radford tackling Windies weakness to improve batting

Veteran Marlon Samuels … entering the tournament in good touch.

HARARE, Zimbabwe, CMC – Batting coach Tony Radford says emphasis will be placed on improving the middle period of the West Indies innings, as they seek to justify their favourites tag and win the ICC World Cup Qualifiers starting here next week.

In recent years, the Caribbean side have struggled to build or sustain momentum during the middle overs, leading to bungled run chases or average totals when batting first.

Radford said with the big hitters in the squad, once the Windies rectified this aspect of their batting, they would be a force to be reckoned with.

“When we look at our 50-overs cricket over the last year, maybe more than a year, we tend to get good starts,” the Welshman said.

“We have a lot of powerful hitters at back end and I think the big thing for us – and we keep talking about it and it’s an area we really want to be good at – is that middle period.

“If we get a good start, [we want to] maintain the run rate, knocking the ball around, running well between the wickets, to allow our bigger hitters later on in the innings to clear the boundaries.”

West Indies are one of 10 teams vying for the last two World Cup spots at the March 4-25 tournament, and enter as the highest ranked side and as the odds-on bets to qualify.

They open their Group A campaign on March 6 against ICC World Cricket League Division Two champions, United Arab Emirates, before facing Papua New Guinea (March 8), Ireland (March 10) and the Netherlands (March 12).

Two-time former World Cup champions, West Indies have featured at every World Cup to date, and Radford said qualification for the showpiece in England next year was of paramount importance to the unit.

“It’s hugely important. We want to put up a really good show,” he stressed.

“We obviously want to qualify and we want to be at the World Cup next year so I think everybody knows the imortance of it, and that we come here and stamp our authority from ball one and play the way we know we can play.”

He continued: “The key thing is getting used to the pitches here. We’ve actually been in Zimbabwe a couple of times over the last two years. We just played a Test series before Christmas down in Bulawayo which tends to be a little bit slower and spins a bit more.

“I think the pitches in Harare have a little more bounce … I think it is about players getting used to the pitches.”

West Indies enter the tournament match-ready especially with the players coming off their domestic 50-overs competition. Veteran Marlon Samuels, along with rookies Evin Lewis and Shai Hope all recorded hundreds, to strike form ahead of the international campaign.

Radford said the finishing touches would be put on the Windies preparation over the next week.

“The mood’s good. A lot of guys have just come fresh from the Regional Super50 back in the Caribbean and being in decent form so they’ve been playing a fair bit of cricket, playing pretty well and we’re just about to start our preparation really for this competition,” he explained.

“We’ve been in the gym doing a bit of fitness work over the last couple of days and I think everyone is just looking forward to getting into the nuts and bolts of the competition.”

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