EAST LONDON – West Indies start another “new era” in One-day Internationals when Shai Hope leads them into battle for the first time against hosts South Africa on Thursday at Buffalo Park.
Hope was named the new ODI captain and Rovman Powell was appointed the new Twenty20 International captain of the Caribbean side after Nicholas Pooran stepped down from the dual role of white-ball captain last October following an early exit from the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
The 30-year-old Barbados Pride wicketkeeper-batsman, easily the most prolific West Indies batsman in the format over the past three years, will have his hands full trying to infuse a winning culture into a side that has lost 21 of their last 30 ODIs.
Hope said having different captains (Kraigg Brathwaite leads the Test side) for the three formats of the sport on the international stage was not a hindrance – rather it gives the visitors a chance to reboot and sort themselves out at the start of a crucial year that will include qualifying for the World Cup later in the year.
“I think it gives us the opportunity to focus on something more specific, something to build towards, because obviously this is a transition phase for us,” Hope told reporters during a news conference on the eve of the match.
“It gives us an opportunity to see how things can work, and for each captain to lean on each other, and hopefully, it can lead to good things, and especially for the ODI team, definitely to the World Cup.”
Neither West Indies nor South Africa are guaranteed a place in the format’s showpiece event because they languish at eighth and ninth respectively, in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup (CWC) Super League, and both can be overtaken by Sri Lanka, who play a three-match series against New Zealand later this month.
It is likely both sides will be part of the World Cup qualifying tournament in June and July this year in Zimbabwe in an attempt to secure the final two spots in the 10-team finals.
These three ODIs, however, do not form part of the Super League that started two years ago and in which the top 12 ODI teams and the Netherlands are playing a total of 24 ODIs each, earning them points towards automatic qualification with hosts India for the World Cup, which takes place in October and November this year.
West Indies have completed their schedules of matches, winning only nine, and with this in mind, Hope said it was a good opportunity for his side to fine tune their way of playing ODIs and get back into the habit of winning.
“It’s a new journey, but we cannot look too far ahead,” he said. “The main focus is this South Africa series, and the key is to start well and finish better. We need to improve in all areas.
“I do not think there is anything specific that we need to highlight right now, but I think we all have to come together and find the right formula and get that going because we definitely need to qualify for that World Cup. Everything we do now is geared towards that.”
Hope was philosophical about the pathway to the World Cup, and the reality that these three ODIs will not help his side’s cause.
“International cricket is international cricket,” he said. “I think, whenever you cross that line, your aim is to win games, and I won’t say there is any particular path we want to take to make it to the World Cup. But whenever we cross that line, we are playing for our region, we are playing for our country, so everything must go out there into the middle.
“I won’t say there is anything specific for which we were hoping because we are playing for international pride and all those people back in the Caribbean, even all around the world who support West Indies, and we have to play our hearts out for them.”
The match will be the first ODI in six years to be played at the ground, where the pitch tends to be slow and the bounce low, and totals in excess 300 have eluded teams in the last five List A matches, which have delivered two centuries and two hauls of four or more wickets.
WEST INDIES (from): Shai Hope (captain), Rovman Powell (vice captain), Shamarh Brooks, Yannic Cariah, Keacy Carty, Roston Chase, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith.
SOUTH AFRICA (from): Temba Bavuma (captain), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Tony de Zorzi, Bjorn Fortuin, Sisanda Magala, Lungi Ngidi, Ryan Rickelton, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs, Lizaad Williams, Rassie van der Dussen.