Windies plotting World Cup triumph despite qualifying challenge

West Indies captain Jason Holder poses with the ICC World Cup qualifying tournament trophy. (Photo courtesy CWI Media)

HARARE, Zimbabwe, CMC – Captain Jason Holder believes the ICC World Cup qualifiers will provide precious momentum for West Indies as they take aim at a third World Cup triumph in England next year.

The Caribbean side, two-time former champions, were forced to go through the May 4-25 qualifiers here in order to reach the World Cup, after finishing outside the top eight in the ICC one-day ranking by the qualification cut-off date of September 30 last year.

And Holder told media here that apart from qualifying for the showpiece, West Indies were also keen on winning the event and adding a third title to their collection.  “I think everybody understands the importance of a World Cup. We’ve won the World Cup on two occasions and we’re trying to formulate our plans in terms of getting a third,” the all-rounder said.

“We’ve done well in T20 cricket, we’ve done well in women’s cricket and in Under-19 cricket. I think it’s about time we win another World Cup in the ODI format.”

West Indies’ first challenge, however, will be to navigate their way through Group A of the qualifiers, as they come up against ICC World Cricket League Division 2 champion, United Arab Emirates, Papua New Guinea, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Their one-day form over the last year has been wretched, winning just three of 23 matches, and Holder said the qualifying tournament presented the opportunity to find some consistency.   “Over the last few years, we probably haven’t played the cricket we would’ve like to play but having said that, all the guys are motivated and we know what is at stake,” Holder pointed out.

“It is an opportunity for us to grab some momentum heading into next year’s World Cup, get some games under our belt, just finalise some combinations, get things right, and hopefully turn our cricket in terms of the ODI format.

“It is probably our weaker format. No doubt, we have not been consistent, something that we have addressed [and] hopefully going forward we should see some good performances.”

West Indies are the highest ranked side in the competition and heavy favourites to pick up one of the two remaining World Cup spots.

They will be expected to easily dispose of the likes of UAE and PNG but could face a major challenge from Ireland, who upset them at the last World Cup.

Holder assured that regardless of the opposition, West Indies would be taking a professional approach to the campaign.

“We see every game as a very important game. We’ve got to be professional. I don’t want to focus too much on the opposition but rather on the cricket we want to play,” he stressed.

“I think once we cover all three departments and be consistent in three departments, we’ll get the results we’re looking for. When you look at our line-up, we’ve got a well-balanced side, quality side with youth and experience.

“Hopefully, we could gel together and make things happen in this tournament.”

Holder also praised the involvement of veteran batsmen Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, both of whom made themselves available for the qualifiers.

“I must commend Chris and guys like Marlon, who have come here with that motivation to do well for the West Indies and give themselves a chance to play another World Cup,” he said.

“As I said to the group, it may be an opportunity for guys to finish their careers well, it’s also an opportunity for guys to make a spark in their careers by playing in the World Cup.”

West Indies open their account against UAE on March 6.

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