Jason Holder has sounded the call for fans to rally round the West Indies team as they begin their campaign to earn a place in the 2019 World Cup.
A team which was an automatic pick in each of the past 11 editions, back-to-back champions in 1975 and 1979, now has to go through a qualifying tournament to even take part in the ICC event. But, after expressing disappointment at such a turn of events, Holder invoked the rich history of West Indies cricket and announced that they were putting things in place to win a third world title.
"All the guys are motivated and we know what's at stake," he said. "I see it as an opportunity for us to grab some momentum heading into next year's World Cup, get some games under our belt, finalise our combinations, get things right and hopefully turn things around in terms of the ODI format. It's probably one of our weaker formats and no doubt that we've been inconsistent. Obviously it's something we've addressed and moving forward I think hopefully we should see some good performances."
West Indies made it to the quarter-final of the 2015 World Cup, but since then they have won only 8 out of 42 ODIs. Their win-loss ratio of 0.2 is the poorest out of all the teams that have played the format over the past three years.
"We have put ourselves in this situation," he told ESPNcricinfo. "We have got only ourselves to blame. We are here for a reason. Our form off late hasn't been the best. It is a matter for us to put that behind and make things right. It is something new for us. We never had to qualify for the World Cup. It will be a new challenge. All these Associates teams tend to play fearless cricket, play quite aggressive cricket, trying to taking down the bigger nations."
Considering they are going into a qualifying tournament that entertains 10 competitors but allows only two to progress, West Indies would be pleased to have some of the big players back. Chris Gayle has come off a two-year ODI hiatus in 2017. Marlon Samuels, who has a history of saving his best for World Cups, is also back in the squad having missed their most recent 50-over assignment in New Zealand.
"I must commend a guy like Chris, also a guy like Marlon, who've come here with that motivation to do well for West Indies and give us a chance to play another World Cup. As I said to the ground, it's an opportunity to finish their careers well. It's also an opportunity for guys to make a spark in their career and start their careers in the World Cup."
West Indies will be facing teams that have done well against them in the recent past. In 2017, they suffered a colossal loss to Afghanistan. In 2016, with a place in a tri-series final on the line, they were beaten by Zimbabwe. And Ireland knocked them over with ease in the last World Cup. Nevertheless Holder was confident his players will place their best foot forward.
"I think everybody understands the importance of being in a World Cup," he said. "We've obviously won the World Cup on two occasions and I think we're trying to formulate our plans in terms of getting a third. We've done well in T20 cricket, we've done well in women's cricket, Under-19 cricket, so now I think it's about time we win another World Cup in the ODI format."
West Indies play their first match against UAE on March 6, but they have a warm-up game against Afghanistan on Tuesday.