BY BRYAN DAVIS
LATER this month on the 23rd, West Indies’ cricketers embark on their journey to defend the T20 World Cup that they won in 2016 and 2012. WI were always in the upper strata of the rankings in the early days of international competition in T20 cricket which began approximately fifteen years ago.
However, after 2016, when the unpopular Cricket West Indies presidency of "Dave" Cameron was in full swing, Darren Sammy relinquished his position as captain when he severely criticised the president while on the podium giving his victory speech to the Kolkata crowd and the millions of TV viewers worldwide.
Because of the joy and happiness, Carlos Brathwaite had brought to West Indians globally, by slapping the first four deliveries of the final over from English stalwart Ben Stokes for six, to win the game, he was named almost immediately as successor to Sammy. An injustice was done to Brathwaite, as he was not even a regular member of the team.
Many players became unavailable to play. The hapless Barbadian, in a situation beyond his capacity, just could not manage his new responsibilities. He could not mould the team together because it was always changing, through the tremendous unpopularity of the CWI president and ineffectual selectors. It was not his fault, he was thrust into the position unwarranted.
Thus, WI T20 cricket went into a downward spiral and hit the bottom of the rankings of the Test-playing countries. Since then, it has been quite a struggle to gain some ground to get back into the top three. In spite of a new administration under president Ricky Skerritt, the appointment of a new T20 captain in Kieron Pollard, plus fresh selectors, WI gained only a slight improvement.
The rankings at present-: England 278; India 266; Pakistan 261; New Zealand 257; South Africa 250; Bangladesh 241; Australia 240; Afghanistan 236; West Indies 234; Sri Lanka 229.
T20 cricket is the most unpredictable of all the formats of the game. A side could appear quite powerful on paper with a number of ‘stars’ and be defeated by a team of inexperienced fighting youngsters. Teams generally need the right winning attitude to be victors.
Being only 20 overs it doesn’t take much to swing a game be it by one batsman or a single bowler. The more united the team the better it does on match day.
I’ll try to subjectively rate the WI side and guess as to what are their chances of winning the tournament or at least getting to the final.
There is a shadow of unfitness covering the WI squad of players that could prove to be our undoing, especially when the heat of the middle east venues is taken into consideration. Watching the continuation of the IPL in which games are being played on the same fields that the T20WC will be using, gives one pause to reflect.
I’m thinking of the already lame Andre Russell.
Although it is being said that the injury to his hamstring is being worked on daily, it will still be a problem, as during this time of repair he won’t be doing any fitness training.
Full concentration would be on his injury and rest.
I’m concerned about Ravi Rampaul. I don’t believe he’s fit enough to play in the sweltering temperatures that would be experienced during games. It’s easy to say he has only four overs to bowl, all the same, he will be in the field chasing balls for 20 overs. I wonder how much experience would help in the circumstances.
I see Oshane Thomas and Obed McCoy struggling.
Thomas, because he’s overweight; McCoy was recently injured during the CPL and carries doubts about how ready he is physically.
I’m worried about the form of the batsmen, the players who have to make the scores necessary to win T20 matches. The captain Kieron Pollard is out of touch, nonetheless, with his experience, his batting can switch on.
Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer. Although two of the most talented batsmen on the side, their form is worrying. The seriousness of it is that their basic technique has flown out the window and unless the coach identifies the problem, they’re in trouble.
Chris Gayle’s predicament is self-doubt. His reflexes are too slow to deal with the pace and his footwork is too limited to play spin. Also, he’s a passenger on the field.
Coach and captain have their work cut out for them.
Good luck to team WI.