With its mix of big hitters and bowlers of all shapes and sizes, West Indies is being considered one of the favourites for ICC WOrld Twenty20 2012
To many, the best platform for West Indies to announce their revival, if it were to happen, would be the Twenty20 format. Some, like Sourav Ganguly, have even gone on record to say that West Indies are the favourites for ICC World Twenty20 2012. But with the West Indies team, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip, and whether they can bridge that gap or not might be the story to look out for after the tournament begins.
At ICC World T20 2009, West Indies reached the semi-final – its best performance in the three editions of the tournament, which was later hosted in the Caribbean in 2010.
Those were early years of the game’s youngest format. Since then, West Indian players have been stars at various T20 leagues around the world. Players like Kieron Pollard, Andrew Russell and Dwayne Smith are all T20 babies, first making their name for one franchise or the other, or, in the case of Pollard, with the Trinidad & Tobago unit that reached the final of the inaugural Champions League T20 in 2009. Dwayne Bravo is another man much in demand with T20 franchises.
From the outside, it’s a team that’s designed to shine in T20s.
Chris Gayle at the top is one of the best, if not the best, T20 opening batsman in the world. Since his return to the side, he has been very consistent, scoring 230 in two Tests, 273 in six One-Day Internationals and 140 in three Twenty20 Internationals. His overall Twenty20 average is 44.19, and that means Gayle’s impact on a T20 match can never be overstated.
Apart from Gayle, in Lendl Simmons, Smith, Darren and Dwayne Bravo, Pollard and Johnson Charles, the likely first-choice wicketkeeper ahead of Denesh Ramdin, West Indies have a battery of hitters. If stability is the order of the day, Marlon Samuels will be useful. And for a little additional blitzkrieg, Darren Sammy, the captain, and Russell, are difficult to restrain in the lower middle-order.
The man at the head of the bowling attack should be Sunil Narine, especially on pitches where he became the standout Indian Premier League 2012 star. In Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul, West Indies have two competent new ball options. However, with Russell, Dwayne Bravo and Pollard as medium pace options, and handy offspinners in Gayle and Samuels, Edwards and Rampaul are unlikely to feature together in a starting XI.
Clubbed with Australia and Ireland in Group B, West Indies should make it to the second round without much fuss. From there on, it gets tougher.
Things might start going wrong if there is too much dependence on Gayle to give the team big starts and Narine to bowl four tight overs in every match. Both of them have shown – Gayle for a long time and Narine in the short while that he has been around – that they can be trusted to deliver.
But then again, it goes back to the cup and the lip. In ICC World T20 2007, Gayle scored 117 in the first match against South Africa, but West Indies lost. They it lost to Bangladesh and crashed out in the first round. And after reaching the semis in 2009, in 2010, at home, it lost to Sri Lanka and Australia while beating India, to bow out in the Super Eights.
Plus, there’s the other factor – one that can work in strange ways. Can Sammy’s men handle being considered one of the pre-tournament favourites? It is, after all, not something they are used to.