West Indies eye more T20 glorySaturday, September 11, 2021
Those used to the vagaries of West Indies cricket won't be surprised that though the Caribbean team will go to next month's T20 World Cup as defending champions they are currently ranked 10th on the International Cricket Council (ICC) listing.
That's ahead of the likes of Zimbabwe and Ireland but behind all major cricket-playing countries.
Since beating England in dramatic circumstances in India in April 2016, West Indies' T20 fortunes slumped — not least because the regional side has only, in relatively recent times, been able to consistently field its strongest sides in shorter formats.
This year in the Caribbean, the West Indies led by Mr Kieron Pollard had mixed results against international teams in T20 cricket. They defeated Sri Lanka 2-1, lost 2-3 to South Africa, beat an under-strength Australia 4-1, then lost 0-1 to Pakistan in a four-match series ruined by rain.
In addition to the preparation provided by international cricket this year, West Indies benefited from the ongoing Caribbean Premier League (CPL) with all its leading players involved.
It's against the backdrop of plentiful T20 cricket in recent months that West Indies chief selector Mr Roger Harper and his panel this week selected a 15-man squad, with four travelling reserves for the World Cup tournament to be co-hosted by Persian Gulf neighbours United Arab Emirates and Oman in October/November.
Great interest surrounds the selection of Mr Chris Gayle, now close to his 42nd birthday.
The Caribbean Media Corporation reminds us that Mr Gayle “is perhaps the greatest batsman to have graced the T20 format with 14,179 runs and 22 hundreds from 442 T20s”. To be clear, those figures relate to T20 tournaments globally — including franchise cricket — since 2005.
The difficulty is that in more recent times Mr Gayle's numbers have shown significant decline. That's hardly surprising, given his age. However, Mr Harper and his panel feel the famous Jamaican will bring high value even outside of on-field performances.
Time will tell. What's certain is that all teams will be eyeing the West Indies with great caution, given the quality of their players in cricket's shortest format and their history of being the only team to have won the global tournament twice — in 2012 and 2016.
Messrs Carlos Brathwaite and Marlon Samuels are not part of this squad. But no cricket watcher will ever forget the excitement of five years ago when those two carried West Indies to an unlikely victory over England in the 2016 final in India.
With Mr Samuels unbeaten on 85 at the non-striker's end and West Indies needing 19 to win off the last over bowled by England's champion fast bowler Mr Ben Stokes, a nerveless Mr Brathwaite hit the first four balls for sixes, forever recorded in cricket folklore as 6,6,6,6.
That performance was celebrated as the West Indian way. To expect similar dramatics this time around would probably be asking for too much. However, West Indians will be expecting their players to compete to the very best of their ability. The entire cricket-playing world knows that if the West Indies are at their best, they pose extreme danger to all others.
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