John Campbell and Shai Hope’s world record 365-run opening partnership against Ireland has to be taken seriously. Ireland will not feature in the upcoming World Cup, but they are a competitive side for a while now. Just two days ago, they had made England toil hard for a victory in an ODI. A lower-order partnership between Ben Foakes and Tom Curran eventually took England over the line in a low-scoring affair. So, Campbell scoring 179 runs off 137 balls and Hope making 172 off 152 deliveries add serious muscles to the West Indies top-order, with an eye to the World Cup.
Hope is an established player across formats and a certainty in the playing XI. Campbell is a new-comer, who made his international debut in the home series against England earlier this year. The century against Ireland yesterday could be the springboard for him. The 25-year-old is not in the West Indies World Cup squad, but the teams are allowed to make changes till May 23 and a good tri-series could bring Campbell in contention.
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An excess of batting riches will give the West Indies team management a happy selection headache in the World Cup. Chris Gayle had a great ODI series against England, where he scored 424 runs including two centuries in five ODIs. Given the x-factor that he offers, Gayle would be an automatic choice to start with. But the likes of Evin Lewis will keep him on his toes. The ‘perfect competition’ will serve the West Indies cricket well in the World Cup. The likes of Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran and Campbell – if he eventually gets the nod – will breathe down the star players’ neck.
The ICC events are usually played on batting-friendly surfaces. In England, the new ball might move a bit in the air, but the World Cup is basically going to be a high-scoring affair. West Indies are peaking at the right time. Also, Ricky Skerritt’s appointment as the new Cricket West Indies president has created a feel-good factor. Skerritt has extended an olive branch to the players who had fallen out with the earlier regime. The West Indies cricket is at its best when the players are allowed to enjoy and express themselves. And this side is replete with big-hitters and match-winners. If featherbeds are laid out in England, West Indies have the batting wherewithal to outscore their opponents. They will not be the pushovers this term, far from it.
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