MELBOURNE, Australia, CMC – Batting legend Brian Lara believes two-time former ICC World Cup champions West Indies have “no choice” but to qualify for the showpiece in England next year.
The Caribbean side won the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979 under iconic captain Clive Lloyd, and also reached the final of the 1983 edition before losing to India.
Lara, who led the Windies at the 1999 and 2007 editions, said their prestigious history in the competition underlined the urgency of the need to qualify.
“We have a very good record in the Champions Trophy and we didn’t have the opportunity to play (last year). The World Cup is a different story, obviously,” Lara told the Melbourne Age on Monday.
“It is something much more important. History in that particular tournament is very strong, especially in the early part of it, the first three or four World Cups. It’s a situation where I think the boys have no choice, we have to pull it through.
“It (ICC rankings) is set up in such a way that we were out of that place (automatic qualification) so we have to qualify. But it doesn’t mean we can’t get there – we have to get there.”
West Indies began 2017 with hopes of direct qualification but lost three of 23 One-Day Internationals throughout the year, to be ranked ninth at the September 30 cut-off date.
Only hosts England, along with the remaining top seven teams in the ICC rankings, achieved automatic qualification.
West Indies will now face a plethora of lower-ranked sides in a 10-team qualification tournament in Zimbabwe running from March 4-25, in order to secure one of the two remaining spots for the World Cup.
Lara, regarded by many as the finest batsman of the contemporary era, said the Windies failure to qualify was unthinkable.
“It would be a huge disappointment … I don’t want to think beyond that,” said the 48-year-old, who retired from international cricket following the historic 2007 World Cup staged in the Caribbean.
“The tournament is in front of the boys in Zimbabwe at present and they have got to pull it through.”
West Indies, led by all-rounder Jason Holder, will open their qualification campaign on March 6 when they face ICC World Cricket League Division 2 winners, United Arab Emirates in Group A.
The top three from each group will advance to the Super Sixes, where each team will play three matches against sides they did not meet in the preliminaries.
The top two sides will qualify for the final and secure berths at the World Cup from May 30 to July 15 next year.