Armed with a new head coach and captain, West Indies will hope to turn the page on several years of underachievement when they take on minnows Afghanistan in the opening One-Day International of the three-match series on Wednesday.
Phil Simmons, who guided them to the 2016 T20 World Cup title, has returned for his second stint while fellow Trinidadian Kieron Pollard, who played his last ODI three years ago, has replaced all-rounder Jason Holder.
Further, uncapped batsman Brandon King, left-arm spinner Khary Pierre, fast bowler Romario Shepherd and leg-spinning all-rounder Hayden Walsh Jr, have all found their way into the squad, giving it a new look in the wake of the ICC World Cup debacle earlier this year.
West Indies will back themselves to pull off a series win but will also be wary of a dangerous Afghanistan side especially in subcontinent conditions.
They need not look further than Monday’s one-day warm-up match against an Afghanistan XI when they slid to a shock four-wicket defeat.
West Indies will also be aware that of the six matches they have played against the Afghans, they have already lost three. In last year’s World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe, they failed to beat them in three attempts – a warm-up match and then two tournament fixtures including the championship final.
However, the Caribbean side came away with victory in their last meeting at the World Cup in England this year and will back themselves to repeat the result.
In Shai Hope, who averages 47 in ODIs, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran and King, West Indies boast a young, aggressive batting line-up capable of taking any attack apart.
Much will rest on Hope, however, who has already proven himself in subcontinent conditions, where he has scored three of his six hundreds.
Where West Indies may find themselves lacking is in their bowling attack where Holder, with 107 ODIs, is the most experienced campaigner. Left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell, who grabbed 12 wickets at the World Cup, has played only 25 matches while fellow pacer Alzarri Joseph is returning from an injury layoff and is poised to play his first ODI in 16 months.
Afghanistan are likely to rely heavily on their spinners – the eternal bane of West Indies batsmen – with leg-spinning captain Rashid Khan and off-spinners Mohammed Nabi and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman expected to be at the forefront.
Rashid Khan will have fond memories of the West Indies, after snatching a career-best seven wicket haul against them in St Lucia two years ago to fire Afghanistan to a shock win in the first-ever ODI meeting between the two teams.
In conditions with which he is more familiar, the 21-year-old will be perhaps fancying his chances even more.
Afghanistan’s inexperienced batting is perhaps the area West Indies can most exploit. However, the likes of Rahmat Shah – already with four ODI hundreds – Asghar Afghan, Javed Ahmadi and Nabi, all possess the ability to hurt teams.
The contest carded for the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Stadium is set to bowl off at 2 pm (4:30 am Eastern Caribbean time).
AFGHANISTAN – Rashid Khan (captain), Asghar Afghan, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Javed Ahmadi, Afsar Zazai, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Ibrahim Zadran, Yamin Ahmadzai, Naveen-ul-Haq, Ikram Alikhilm, Mujeeb ur Rahman.
WEST INDIES – Kieron Pollard (captain), Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Sunil Ambris, Nicholas Pooran, Brandon King, Roston Chase, Jason Holder, Hayden Walsh Jr, Khary Pierre, Sheldon Cottrell, Keemo Paul, Romario Shepherd, Alzarri Joseph.