West Indies captain Jason Holder has praised Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels for making themselves available for World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe, starting next month.
The West Indies, two-time World Cup winners, failed to automatically reach next year’s tournament in England and Wales after slipping outside the top eight in the world one-day international rankings.
This meant that they now have to fight it out with cricket’s lesser names for one of the last two spots.
‘I must commend Chris and Marlon, who have come here with the motivation to do well for the Windies and give themselves a chance to play another World Cup,’ said Holder.
‘We’ve got a well-balanced, quality side with experience. Hopefully, we could gel together and make things happen in this tournament,’ he said ahead of his team’s first Group A game against the United Arab Emirates on 6 March.
‘As I said to the group, it may be an opportunity for guys to finish their careers well, it’s also an opportunity for guys to make a spark in their careers by playing in the World Cup.’
The Caribbean outfit, who won the first two World Cup tournaments in 1975 and 1979, also face Papua New Guinea, the Netherlands and Ireland in the group stage, with the top three sides to progress to the Super Six.
Meanwhile, teenage leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan is set to lead Afghanistan for at least the early part of their campaign after regular captain Asghar Stanikzai underwent emergency surgery to have his appendix removed on Monday.
The 19-year-old Khan, who was bought for $1.41-million by Sunrisers Hyderabad in last month’s IPL auction, is the joint world No 1 bowler in ODIs and closing in on becoming the fastest-ever to reach 100 wickets.
Afghanistan’s 4-1 series victory over Zimbabwe earlier this month sees them as favourites to qualify alongside the West Indies.
‘It feels good to see that Afghanistan is a favourite to qualify,’ said Khan. ‘I think we should show it on the ground, it’s not only on paper that we should look good.
‘We have to take every match seriously. We have to play good cricket against every team. Hopefully it will go well and we will get four points and go to the next round.’
Afghanistan open their campaign against Scotland in Bulawayo on Sunday, ahead of further Group B matches with Nepal, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe.
The tournament runs from 4-25 March, with the two qualifiers to be decided by the end of the Super Six round on 23 March.
Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images