World Cup Preview: West Indies and UAE

The final teams of the first round.

With Netherland’s about to play in the World Cup, here is a great history we put together of them in cricket. Two things I didn’t know, their women have played a Test, and WG Grace once recruited a Dutch player to London County.

West Indies

Last time

I think a lot of people - certainly myself included - overrated them. It was an odd squad coming in, and we kinda felt they'd work it out. They did not. They got rolled for 55 in the first game, lost to Sri Lanka and South Africa, snuck home against Bangladesh, and seemed to almost give up in the last game, which was a Chris Gayle benefit match.

The strength

They have played a lot of T20 in the last two years. Nicholas Pooran has played in 46 T20Is. West Indies have played one more than that. While they have certainly cycled through everyone who has ever been to the Caribbean, even on holiday, they have at least given many players experience and tried every one out in a few roles.

They have only won 16 of those matches, so y'know, it's not great. But with a young and unsure side, I think their best bet was to play this much.

And while it's patchy, when you look at their team, they could run out a lineup that has Lewis, Mayer, Pooran, Powell, Holder, Hosein, and Odean Smith. Just there you have a few players with a second skill, and a whole arseload of hitting power. Around that it's not quite as good. But they have something.

The problems

Well, Shimron Hetmyer didn't fly out. And so I suppose that is a problem. Especially as the rest of their form has not been too great with the bat already. He is their best batter right now, and he's not there. And being that Andre Russell isn't either, it's looking thin.

Obed McCoy is their only death bowler, unless you count Akeal Hosein, and I think he'll struggle to do that in Australia. They are the only two bowlers in this squad going at less than nine an over in the last two years. West Indies have been going at 9.5 plus in the last six overs. So that is not ideal. Holder goes at tens, Rutherford played himself out of this squad with his death bowling. Odean can only bowl there in an emergency and Cottrell is an upfront bowler.

And it's not their only bowling problem, their second spinner is Yannic Cariah, and if you haven't heard of him, that's ok. No one has. In 2021 he didn't play a professional game. His last T20 was in 2016. He's a leg spinner who can hold a bat from Trinidad, and his inclusion shows just how much this team is desperate for a wicket-taking option. He does have a decent list a record, but he's 30, and has played 25 professional white ball matches. The entire thing is bizarre.


The worst case is not qualifying for the next round, and while I still make them the favourite in this group, if Ireland get their act together and Scotland get three of their power hitters going, this suddenly becomes a very tough ask. You hit the death of one of these matches with Harry Tector or Michael Leask smashing it, and only Obed McCoy on his own to stop them, and Windies could be in a dog fight.

The best is that they ease through the first round and then win couple of games in the main tournament. However, I can't see that. Let's lower expectations, they should be able to play good solid cricket over the second round, even ending up 1-4 again will be better, as it's a young side rocked by key omissions (Narine, Pollard and Dre Russ is quite the three to lose). So if they play hard, and make the most of their time that is probably the best they can do. If they win more matches, that's more a dream scenario than simple best case.


Last time

2016 was the last time Zimbabwe were in a World Cup. That was a long time ago. Williams, Sikandar Raza, Jongwe, Chatara, and Wellington Masakadza were the players in that old squad. They made the second round. Well, I think they did; it's honestly so long back who knows.

The strength

Raza is their strength, he has been a fantastic player for them for a long time, but his last two years have been pretty special. In that time with the ball, he's been averaging 27 while going at 6.7 runs per over. It's on low usage, so some of that is because he was used well. But regardless, that's lovely. And then with the bat he averages over 30, striking 145. That's a hell of a combo.

And because he's an off-spinner, you can combine that with Ryan Burl - the leg spinner you probably first heard of because he asked for his nation to supply him boots to play in. And then later, because he destroyed Australia in an ODI. And he can also bat. So it means they have two players who can bat top 7 and bowl. Then on top of that, they each spin in a different direction. It's similar to what Moeen Ali and Ravi Jadeja produce at Chennai. Just the lower budget verion.

Compare to Scotland with their two frontline spinners who are both SLA and thusly they struggle to get both in. On spinning decks, Zimbabwe can pick extra batters, play catch-up cricket, or go into games with six or even seven bowlers if they want.

The problems

They don't score a lot as a team. They have struggled against most bowling units to get over 160, which gets lower against top players. And that is through a combination of low average and strike rate. It's not easy to fix if your players don't score big and they do it slowly.

You look at this; outside of Raza, there is no player who combines average and strike rate. You get one or the other. I can't see how they make enough runs against good bowling units.


The worst case is a clean sweep and out, and it's possible. All three teams probably have the batting ability to make scores that Zimbabwe can't touch. And they are used to playing on wickets that turn and using that as an advantage. That won't help here.

But they do have a nice bowling lineup, seam talent, spin variety. They only need two good games and a helpful surface for the second round to be

a legitimate possibility. Once there, I don't see them doing much, but with everything that has gone on with Zimbabwe cricket, and how much other teams have improved, this would be a far bigger deal than making the second round in 2016.

If you’re still in need of something, Dan Norcross and I went deep on Vice Captains in cricket. And I promise it is more interesting than it sounds.