All this bad weather has been terrible for the World Cup. When India beat Australia I thought the tournament was slowly beginning to heat up, but it’s been a damp squib (literally) ever since. The format doesn’t exactly help either. There’s a lack of tension in the early weeks because teams know they can lose a game or two and still progress.

I asked our Twitter followers how excited they were about the World Cup and over 300 people had their say. The results suggest that a lot of people are apathetic but most, like myself, are somewhat interested and hoping things will get interesting soon.

The viewing figures on Sky – a pretty pathetic average of 500k viewers for the England games while the women’s world cup is averaging 4 million – suggests the tournament needs an injection of excitement too. And soon.

Thankfully, however, a rather appetising game is on the agenda for tomorrow. England face the West Indies at The Rose Bowl in what could be a very spicy encounter indeed – especially considering events this winter. Jason Holder’s men landed some egg on England faces in the test series and held us to an entertaining 2-2 draw in the ODIs.

There’s also the Jofra Archer factor to consider. One imagines the Windies would like nothing more than to send the cricketer they snubbed packing. Archer, on the other hand, will be looking to prove a point big time. If the weather’s warm we might see him hit 95mph again with some regularity.

Personally I think this game will be a stern test for England. The West Indies have plenty of firepower themselves – the word is that Andre Russell will be fit to play – and our much vaunted batting line-up has a bit of a weakness against top class fast bowling:

Eoin Morgan has always been vulnerable against the short ball, as has Moeen if he plays. And Jonny Bairstow struggled against fast bowling early in his career too. I also sense that Jos Buttler will receive his share of chin music. He didn’t like it in the 2015 Ashes and he hasn’t been tested in this way since his international recall. If I was Jason Holder I’d be keeping a few Russell overs up my sleeve for when Jos walks to the wicket.

Although I’ll obviously be supporting England on Friday, I must confess I have a soft spot for the West Indies. They were absolutely formidable in the 1980s and 1990s (the years when I was growing up) and I have so many fond memories of Malcolm Marshall, Viv Richards, Jeff Dujon, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Greenidge and Haynes, and of course, Brian Lara. If England don’t win the World Cup then I really hope the West Indies do.

What’s more, although they’ve had false dawns before, one senses that cricket in the Caribbean is finally heading in the right direction (albeit slowly). A recent interview with Ambrose, Joel Garner, and Shiv Chanderpaul in the Betway Insider blog confirms as much. Chanderpaul’s thoughts are particularly encouraging, especially when one considers where the Windies were when Shiv was a young man:

We do not have the money that is being pushed into cricket that another board might have. But we’ve done a lot in the last few years. I used to do everything on my own without any money, no contracts, nothing. I had to find my own money if I had to travel. Now the countries in the Caribbean all have contracted players, the local boys all have contracts. That means all the boys are going to play in regional tournaments.

This sounds promising to me. What’s more, I think it’s pretty evident that Jason Holder’s team are a lot more ‘together’ (Eoin Morgan would probably say they’ve got a better ‘culture’) than the Windies have been for a long time. I’m sure some of that it down to Holder’s excellent leadership, but it wouldn’t surprise me if off-field changes are having some impact too.

The Caribbean franchise T20 tournament is also presumably bringing more money into West Indies cricket. The key, as Joel Garner explains, is to use this windfall wisely:

T20 cricket is good for the consumers and people who run the tournaments. But it’s important that the money goes back into cricket. If we want to have the future of cricket, then you invest the money you make back into the grassroots level. That is where the next set of cricketers are coming from.

He’s not wrong. If there’s one thing cricket boards excel at it’s squandering money. However, at least there finally appears to be some young talent coming through the ranks. Indeed, even big Curtly is beginning to sound a little more optimistic of late.

Although Ambrose concedes that it has taken “a little too long, in my opinion, to bounce back” he seems to suggest that some of the Windies problems were cyclical, and that the next generation of players are finally capable of restoring some pride:

There was always going to be a decline. No team can rule the world forever. There is going to be a time when you lose players. It was going to be difficult to find another Clive Lloyd, another Viv Richards, another Brian Lara, another Malcolm Marshall. But I believe we have enough talent in the region to get back somewhere in the top three of world cricket.

I have some sympathy for Ambrose’s view. A fall is always harder to take, not to mention a lot more obvious, when the highs were so extraordinarily high. Australia haven’t fallen as low as the Windies – they’e got a wealthier board, of course – but even they have struggled badly to replace the likes of Steve Waugh, Ponting, Hayden, Gilchrist, Warne, and McGrath. It was probably always going to be thus.

However, if recent performances are any indicator then the West Indies might be on their way back. I doubt they’ll dominate the world anytime soon but the long droughts – they won just 2 of 33 test matches between February 2009 and July 2012, and failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy in 2017 – should be a thing of the past.

In order to prevent future embarrassments, the authorities have finally made their entire domestic setup professional. It has taken six years but youngsters are finally incentivised to choose cricket as a full-time career. This should slow down the much talked about haemorrhaging of talent to American sports.

So maybe, just maybe, the next time a Jofra Archer comes through the Windies ranks he’ll be identified, developed, cherished, and possibly well remunerated too. The CWI won’t be able to compete with the ECB when it comes to wages, but with IPL riches also up for grabs, perhaps the best West Indian talent will be inclined to stick around and help the national team for longer.

James Morgan