The best white-ball men

The best white-ball men

West Indies’ absence from the ongoing 2023 50 overs World Cup isn’t the first time a sports team with a championship-winning history has suffered the ignominy of missing a global competition. Italy, the four-time FIFA World Cup and two-time European football champions didn’t qualify for the FIFA World Cups in 2018 and 2022.

West Indies have five global limited overs titles in cricket’s 50-over and Twenty20 International formats, inclusive of their Champions Trophy 50-over win in 2004. This places the team second historically to Australia (eight). After the two 50-over World Cup wins and trio of finals appearances from 1975-1983, West Indies subsequently only had one semi-final appearance in 1996.

The Champions trophy win came before the two Twenty20 World titles during the 2012-2016 glory era in which the “Men In Maroon” helped popularise cricket’s newest format, that is currently heavily influencing how the modern 50 overs game is played.

This evolution of white-ball cricket has influenced this fun exercise of picking a West Indies all-time ODI XI. As such, the foundation of this team I have selected is based on the best from the 1975-83 ODI and 2012-2016 T20 championship units.

My XI:

Chris Gayle:

The undisputed G.O.A.T of Twenty20 batters and the scorer of the most ODI centuries for West Indies with 25. Only the presence of Sir Viv Richards would make one hesitate to name Gayle the West Indies’ greatest limited overs batter.

Shai Hope (Wicketkeeper):

To keep Gordon Greenidge or Desmond Haynes out of this XI as an opener, you had to do something special. What Hope has accomplished in the modern, poor era of West Indies cricket, in averaging 50 with bat, plus wicket-keeping, is West Indies all-time ODI level special.

Brian Lara:

The Prince of Port of Spain probably has no memorable 50 overs innings that stick in fans’ minds like his Test match efforts of 375, 400, 277 etc – but he is an obvious selection, especially for his 19 ODI centuries.

Sir Vivian Richards:

The “Master Blaster’s strike rate of 90.20 was way ahead of his time. He’s one of the revolutionary players of white-ball cricket.

Sir Clive Lloyd (Captain):

Long before special captain’s innings by Ricky Ponting and Mahendra Dhoni to win the 2003 and 2011 World Cup’s, “Super Cat” Sir Clive Lloyd did it in the inaugural 1975 World Cup.

Carl Hooper:

Geoff Boycott famously called his deliveries in Test cricket “lollipops,” but in limited overs cricket he was very, very effective with the ball, to go with his clean striking with bat in the middle order.

Dwayne Bravo:

Despite well-documented administrative issues with the West Indies Board which unfortunately stopped him from playing ODI cricket after 2014, Bravo’s 199 wickets is third on the West Indies ODI wicket-takers list. Imagine him bowling in the death overs with Joel Garner.

Sunil Narine:

Unlike Test cricket where Lance Gibbs, Sonny Ramdhin and Alf Valentine made their mark, Narine is the only world-class ODI spin bowler West Indies has ever had before he became a legend in T20 cricket. He was regularly ranked the number one ODI bowler during 2013-2014 period.

Malcolm Marshall:

Similar to Lara with the bat, the late, great Marshall has no ODI figures with the ball that rolls off the tongue like his Test exploits. He has no ODI five-wicket hauls for example. However those technicalities won’t be enough to keep this legend out of the team.

Curtly Ambrose:

Number two on the West Indies ODI wicket-taker list with 225 victims, he is an easy selection considering his tally is unlikely to be overtaken.

Joel Garner:

Similar to King Viv with the bat, Garner was a limited overs cricket pioneer. His height and accuracy made him arguably the most impossible bowler to hit, highlighted by an unbelievable economy rate of 3.09.

Reserves: Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Michael Holding.

Dwayne Bravo/Kieron Pollard/Andre Russell/Sunil Narine and West Indies cricket’s current state:

These four players were black-balled and pigeon-holed as T20 specialists by West Indies in ODIs for well-documented reasons to Caribbean cricket observers after the infamous India 2014 tour.

Alongside the aforementioned point on Bravo’s ODI absence after 2014, before Pollard came back as West Indies captain in 2019, he wasn’t picked in ODIs regularly after 2015. The 2015-2019 period was Pollard’s best in the Indian Premier League (IPL). A similar thing occurred with Narine and Russell in the IPL.

Outside of this nostalgic exercise looking back at West Indies limited overs history, stakeholders will continue to consider reasons for West Indies’ first-ever World Cup absence.

That tragic modern selection faux pas while West Indies suffered the record of zero 50 overs series victories from October 2014 until November 2019, should not prevent them being acknowledged among the best-ever white ball players in Caribbean cricket history. That period is an example of the systemic failure that planted the seeds for West Indies to be watching the World Cup from the sidelines today.

—Colin Benjamin is a

former media officer with

Cricket West Indies and the

T&T professional football league club W Connection FC.

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