Wellington, New Zealand: A place in the quarterfinals of the Cricket World Cup offers the West Indies a chance to resuscitate a team and a sport which has been in steady decline in what was once the world's great nursery of talent.
All mentions of the West Indies at this World Cup are preceded with the term "two-time champions" but it's less politic to mention that the second of those championships was 36 years ago.
The West Indies' continuing retreat from a place among cricket's world powers is of deep concern to the sport's administrators, and Saturday's quarterfinal against New Zealand may help determine whether the decline is terminal or reversible.
The West Indies won the World Cup in 1975 and 1979 and were runners-up in 1983. They have reached the Cup semifinals only once since — in 1996 — and their other successes on the world stage have been sporadic: they won the Champions Trophy in 2004 and the Twenty20 World Cup in 2012.
All cricketing nations have their ups and downs but the story of the West Indies over the past 20 years has been one of almost continuous decline, of a falloff in player numbers and, with that, deteriorating results.
Cricket was once the sport of choice for most young men growing up in the Caribbean. In the age of satellite and cable television, exposure to American basketball and to global football have highlighted the much more lavish salaries those sports offer in comparison to cricket.
In-fighting and factionalism have played a part. Most recently, players found themselves at loggerheads with their board which they felt didn't take seriously enough their concerns about remuneration and workload. During a recent tour to India, the players effectively went on strike, and the already existing fault lines within West Indies cricket opened up.
Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, who were leading protagonists in the rebellion in India, were omitted from the World Cup squad and the captaincy was passed from Bravo to Jason Holder.
Holder, who had played only 21 one-day internationals, was asked to lead a team including three former captains. When he clashed with one of those, Darren Sammy, during the pool match against the United Arab Emirates, it led to speculation of disharmony within the West Indies' squad.
A win over New Zealand on Saturday, a place in the World Cup semifinals, might go a long way to establishing Holder as a West Indies' captain of the future and healing rifts within the team and the Caribbean game.
Brian Lara, holder of the record for the highest score in test cricket, said "I am a Jason Holder fan. I like his approach to leadership and the way he has gone about his game.
Former fast bowler Curtly Ambrose endorsed the new pace partnership between Holder and Jerome Taylor.
"The combination of Taylor and Holder is working pretty well for us at the moment," he said. "We all know how talented captain Holder is. Taylor, wonderful bowler, swings the ball and they're going to be key, I believe, to start the innings."
Former captain Clive Lloyd, who led the team during its great era of the 1970s and 1980s and now chairman of the West Indies board, sees a renewed stock of pace bowlers bodes well for the future.
"We'd love to have (Andy) Roberts, (Michael) Holding, (Curtly) Ambrose and (Courtney) Walsh, but it doesn't happen in any other country," Lloyd said.
"We've had a little bit of a decline, but we have one or two young players coming through and you'll hear about them in another year or so."