Wednesday, April 17, 2024

ICC: Paul brimming with confidence as West Indies seek World Cup spot

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Photo Credit: Cricket West Indies

Confidence is key for all-rounder Keemo Paul as he and his West Indies teammates try to qualify for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.

The 25-year-old has returned to the ODI squad for the first time since July 2022 and will hope to help the two-time champions advance from the Qualifier in Zimbabwe. Paul has been in and out of the international side in recent years, but with that has come mental toughness. 

“I’ve been out for a while and to come back, I’m just really excited to play some cricket and to perform back amongst my friends, people that I call my second family” the right-arm pacer said. “I’ve always been a hard worker, but I would say I’ve had to dial in more on specifics and get mentally tough to get back here.  

“Cricket is all about being mentally strong. It was just about speaking to the right people, getting the right motivation, and also motivating myself.” 

Back in the squad, Paul has now been given an important job to do by selector Desmond Haynes, who holds him up as a match-winner. This is no different to how Paul views himself but admits performances to back up this belief have been lacking. Ominously for the West Indies’ opponents, he believes a match-winning showing is not far away. 

He added: “I definitely think I’m a match winner, I always try to be positive, I always try to be my own hype man. I just try to motivate myself as much as possible. People may say that I am a match-winner, but I want to prove it.  I’m at a stage now in my career, where I need to do better and where I need to actually stand up as a match-winner and put in those performances. Every game, I go there with that mentality now to be a match-winner, so, I think it is going to come very, very soon.” 

The West Indies open their qualifying campaign against the United States, also facing Nepal, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands in the group stages. They are under the guidance of a new coach in the form of Daren Sammy, the only men’s captain to have won the T20 World Cup twice. And Paul believes the 39-year-old has already had an impact on the side. 

He said: “It’s really good to have a legend like Daren Sammy around, he has a very calm demeanour. He is a very cool guy. The players feel really, really good and really, really comfortable. He also brings a lot of energy and motivation to the camp.” 

The confidence Paul feels in himself also spreads to the wider team, with the Guyana-born player not willing to consider anything other than qualification. 

“I wouldn’t say not qualifying would be a failure, but I wouldn’t look down that road because I think we’ll definitely qualify,” Paul revealed. In life, I don’t see anything as a failure. It’s all about learning and moving forward. I’m pretty confident and that’s the mood in the camp. We’re up for it, so I definitely think that we will qualify.” 

How they qualified 

The two-time champions are having to navigate the Qualifier for the second successive time. West Indies came through as runners-up last time out and narrowly missed out on a place in the Super League top eight, finishing 10 points behind South Africa. 

World Cup record 

West Indies lifted the first two ICC Men’s Cricket World Cups, in 1975 and 1979, but have not been back to the final since. They finished ninth in the group stage in England four years ago, winning just twice in nine matches. 

One to watch 

Shai Hope made the perfect start to life as West Indies skipper with a memorable unbeaten 128 in a victory away in South Africa in March. Since taking on the captaincy, Hope has dropped down the order but is averaging 90 with the bat – albeit in just four innings.

When are they playing? 

West Indies play their Group A opener against USA on June 18. They then take on Nepal (June 22), Zimbabwe (June 24) and Netherlands (June 26).

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