THE HUNT BEGINS!
Windies open T20 World Cup defence against EnglandSaturday, October 23, 2021
BY VINODE MAMCHAN
Dubai, UAE — An ageing West Indies team will open their defence against a limping England when the Super 12 stage of the 2021 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 (T20) begins today at the Dubai International Stadium at 6:00 pm local time (9:00 am Jamaica time).
The last time both teams met at a T20 World Cup was in the final in 2016 when the West Indies on the back of an amazing onslaught by Carlos Brathwaite took their second title to become the first team to do it. Brathwaite, with 82,000 cheering Indian fans at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, smoked four sixes off the first four balls of the final over bowled by Ben Stokes to take the West Indies home.
Ironically, both players will not be involved this time around as Stokes is out through a personal break from the game and Brathwaite because of poor form. The West Indies go into the match on the back of warm-up losses to Pakistan and Afghanistan – the only team to beat them at the last World T20. England have fared much better but they are lacking main personnel going into this match.
The West Indies will have on their team the “Universe Boss”, Chris Gayle, who is looking to make a final hurrah at the age of 42. He left the Indian Premier League (IPL) after two matches of the restart to ensure he is fresh for this tournament. The next two weeks could either give him the motivation to continue or indicate to him that the light has turned red.
In addition to Gayle, Dwayne Bravo is 38 years of age, although he did win the IPL a couple of weeks ago right here. Lendl Simmons is another player counting numbers at 36, as well as Ravi Rampaul, who is also 36, skipper Keiron Pollard, 34, and Andre Russell, 33.
It is going to be interesting to see how these ageing warriors stand up to the heat of the UAE. Today's game will be at 6:00 pm, which should be easier, but temperatures in the range of 39 degrees Celsius and humidity 44 per cent for that period in the evening is still uncomfortable for the men from the Caribbean.
There is expected to be no let-up from the elements as rain has not fell here in the last two years and there is no indication it will start now. West Indies are expected to leave out the Barbadian all-rounder Roston Chase for this clash, although he got a 58-ball 54 against Afghanistan and go with Simmons. Inside information suggests that Gayle will open with Evin Lewis and, if they get going there is no more dangerous opening pair in the world.
England, on the other hand, will have to do without Stokes, Jofra Archer, and Sam Curran, three of their best T20 players. However, they will be looking to the others to scrap together just as they did at the last World T20 when they reached the final after falling to the West Indies in the opening match when Gayle took a century off them in Mumbai.
Skipper Eoin Morgan is confident going into the clash: “The experience we had in 2016 and the ride that we went on was unbelievable — thoroughly enjoyable. We've played some of our best-ever cricket in T20 World Cups. The guys are excited.”
His opposite number, Pollard, is counting on his match winners: “We have our work cut out for us but I back my players and we are looking forward to them coming to the party and doing what they are capable of.”
Pollard hinted that Russell may not be extended in this game. “He played in that warm-up game a couple of days ago and it was just like a trial for him because he hasn't played a cricket match in about three-four weeks, so there's still some rust there for him, still need to be a bit confident in his mind. But I'm sure, even yesterday and a couple of days before that, he's been working tirelessly behind the scenes to be fit.”
The team winning the toss is expected to chase because of the slow nature of the track and the dew factor that is expected to come into play later in the night.
Teams: West Indies — Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Akeal Hosein, 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.
England — Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.