Windies plagued by conflict and decline

Once the undisputed kings of cricket, two-time champions West Indies head for the World Cup plagued by infighting, political intrigue and poor form.

Windies plagued by conflict and decline

St. John's: Once the undisputed kings of cricket, two-time champions West Indies head for the World Cup plagued by infighting, political intrigue and poor form.

The fear factor once generated by the world's fastest and most intimidating battery of pace bowlers has given way to a pop-gun attack and a batting line-up which too often relies on the mercurial talents of Chris Gayle.

Until their dramatic one-wicket win in Port Elizabeth last month, their previous three matches saw them swept aside by South Africa with the Proteas, one of the favourites for the World Cup, coasting to wins by 61 runs, 148 runs and nine wickets.

South Africa hit back winning the series 4-1 with a 131-run win in the finale.

Where once the West Indies made history, now they are a footnote -- their defeat to South Africa in Johannesburg last month saw them concede 439 runs, and take just two wickets.

AB de Villiers romped to the fasted ODI century in history off just 31 balls. Three days later, the West Indies were bowled out for just 122.

The West Indies need an in-form and motivated Gayle at the World Cup where they will face defending champions India, Pakistan, South Africa, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates in the opening pool games.

The 35-year-old Gayle has played 263 ODIs with 8,881 runs to his name but his recent form has been poor.

He has just one half-century in his last 17 innings and seems to thrive only in the Twenty20 format where he has become an international batsman for hire.

Gayle was out for nought off the first ball he faced in the final game against South Africa at Centurion and there remain questions over his attitude after he accused selectors of victimisation for dropping Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the World Cup squad.

Bravo was captain last year when the West Indies abandoned their tour of India over a pay dispute.

Barbados fast bowler Jason Holder, just 23, has been installed as captain for the World Cup.

The squad does not lack experience with Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin and Darren Sammy all having played over a 100 ODIs while opener Dwayne Smith is closing in on the three-figure mark.

"I believe we have selected a very good team which will do West Indies proud at the World Cup," said Clive Lloyd, the West Indies chairman of selectors and the man who skippered the team to the 1975 and 1979 World Cup wins.

The responsibility of taking early wickets will fall on the shoulders of seamer Kemar Roach who became just the sixth bowler to claim a hat-trick in a World Cup on his way to career-best figures of 6-27 against the Netherlands in 2011.

He was the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 13 wickets from six matches as West Indies made the quarter-finals, their best run since 1996.

But the Windies suffered a setback last week when off-spinner Sunil Narine withdrew from the squad unhappy with the progress of his bowling action.

Narine has 73 wickets from his 52 ODIs but in a further sign of tensions in the set-up, he was one of two players to turn down the offer of a central contract from the West Indies board last month. 

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