From momentous victories to embarrassing defeats — West Indies cricket has often had contrasting fortunes.
While frequent changes to the core team and the support group have had an impact on the team’s performances over the last few years, most cricketers have stuck through thick and thin.
Their hard work and determination has paid off in the T20 World Cup — which has been a happy hunting ground for the West Indies and its enviable track record in the tournament would prove so. In the past six editions, West Indies has won the title twice, in 2012 and 2016.
This time, too, the Kieron Pollard-led side has all the firepower to go the distance. The team has a perfect blend of experience and youth, and ahead of the tournament, the top guns — including Pollard, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer — have had a fair idea of the conditions in the United Arab Emirates, as all of them featured in the Indian Premier League.
While that will help the team get its plan in place, it would be interesting to see how the team handles the bio-bubble life. Several cricketers have been playing non-stop cricket for months, and the team needs to ensure that the players are not overworked or fatigued.
Chris Gayle had pulled out of the second leg of the IPL citing bubble fatigue, and ahead of the big-ticket tournament, the focus will be on how the seasoned campaigner readies himself for the new challenge.
A big-hitter, Shimron Hetmyer has the ability to emerge as a match-winner . – JOTHI RAMALINGAM B
Batting revolves around Gayle
Age may have caught up with the 42-year-old Gayle, but even now, he remains the key batter for the West Indies team and his form will be crucial to the team’s success. In the Caribbean Premier League and the IPL, Gayle didn’t quite make an impact, and the team management would hope he comes good.
While the side has some genuine big-hitters in Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Hetmyer, Pooran and Pollard, it is a fact that the team’s batting department revolves around the Universe Boss — Gayle. So, the sooner he returns to form, the better it is for the West Indies.
West Indies cricket has produced several power-hitting batters over the years, who games are tailor-made for the T20 format, so in a major tournament like the T20 World Cup, the team management will rely heavily on its tried and tested guns to come out all guns blazing.
However, with Russell’s fitness a concern — he had a Grade 2 hamstring tear during the IPL — the team needs to quickly fix its middle-order, in case Dre Russ is unavailable at least for the first few games.
The return of Rampaul
The West Indies selectors sprang a surprise by naming Ravi Rampaul in the squad. Even though he has been a regular in the CPL, Rampaul hasn’t played international cricket since 2015 and it would be interesting to see how the 36-year-old fast bowler handles the pressure on his return to the international circuit.
A genuine match-winner in his heyday, Rampaul was one of the key members of West Indies’ 2012 World T20 triumph, and the team management would also want him to mentor the young bowlers.
West Indies has some attacking cricketers, who can single-handedly win matches.
The team has a perfect balance of youth and experience and that would be a huge plus in crunch situations. The presence of big-hitters like Pollard and Russell in the middle-order ups the game for the two-time champion.
Weakness: In the harsh conditions of the UAE, the bowling department remains an area of concern for the team. West Indies could feel the absence of seasoned campaigner Jason Holder, who proved to be quite effective for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL.
With both Holder and Sheldon Cottrell in the reserves, West Indies could just feel that it is one fast bowler short.
- Kieron Pollard (Captain), Nicholas Pooran (Vice Captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh jr
- Reserves: Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein
X-Factor: Shimron Hetmyer
Time and again, Shimron Hetmyer has proven the adage — form is temporary, class is permanent — correct. The 24-year-old batter, who has emerged as one of the most sought after players in the franchise leagues, did not have a remarkable outing for Delhi Capitals in the IPL. But the cricketing fraternity is optimistic that a couple of good knocks could boost Hetmyer’s morale. A big-hitter, Hetmyer has the ability to emerge as a match-winner and he remains the x-factor for the Caribbeans.