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It's been ages since West Indies entered an ICC tournament without being written off; they have the firepower to be a serious threat in Sri Lanka
September 21, 2012
Not since the heyday of Viv Richards & Co have West Indies entered a global tournament as one of the favourites. Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw pulled off a miraculous win in the 2004 Champions Trophy final, but apart from that West Indies haven't come close to winning an ICC event in decades.
This time, for the World Twenty20, it is different. "We believe we can win," West Indies captain Darren Sammy said soon after arriving in Sri Lanka. A reason for his confidence is the number of Twenty20 millionaires in his squad - players like Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo are the stuff of franchise owners' dreams, but they have been around for previous World Twenty20s as well. This time, these established stars are part of a squad brimming with talented Twenty20 performers.
Marlon Samuels is back for his first World Twenty20 since 2007 and is in the form of his life; Sunil Narine has just won the ICC Emerging Player of the Year award after a startling start to his international career; Andre Russell is an allrounder made for Twenty20; and the erratic but explosive Dwayne Smith is experiencing a career revival at the top of the order. Other advantages include the flexibility in the squad - their strongest XI could feature as many as seven allrounders - and a majority of the fielders are top quality.
The big question marks for West Indies are their temperament and the quality of their bowling. Can the side hold their nerve in case their volatile top-order fails? And will they be over-reliant on Narine in the subcontinent?
There's no shortage of Twenty20 stars in the West Indies squad, but the biggest of them in world cricket is Chris Gayle. He's conquered cricket's newest format on the back of the sage advice of playing in the V, except instead of keeping the ball along the ground, he launches it towards the sightscreen and the most expensive seats. He doesn't bother with the new-fangled shots like the switch hits or the scoop. Every World Twenty20 so far has featured at least one bludgeoning Gayle innings, starting with the 117 against South Africa in the opening match of the inaugural 2007 event.
Andre Russell has a lower profile than three other allrounders in the squad - the captain Sammy and the Twenty20 headliners, Dwayne Bravo and Pollard - but he is quicker than all of them, can hit it as far as any of them, and is as athletic in the field as well. West Indies are likely to use him as a bowling allrounder, with a place low in the batting order.
Plundering attacks or tricking batsmen in Twenty20 leagues around the world is one thing, but can West Indies' players repeat that at the tougher level of the World Twenty20? Also, while there can be no questioning the firepower in the batting, the bowling department looks less hostile.
World T20 history
West Indies crashed out without a win in 2007, losing to South Africa despite a Gayle century and then falling to Bangladesh. They were far more impressive in 2009, reaching the semi-finals, and when all the focus was on the threat posed by Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and the unreadable Ajantha Mendis, they were undone by the fourth M, Angelo Mathews, who grabbed three wickets in the first over of the chase. At home in 2010, it was a familiar tale of failure as West Indies were eliminated in the Super Eights, with their batsmen managing only one score above 30 in the entire tournament.
Recent formWest Indies' Twenty20 results this year have been patchy: Gayle bulldozed New Zealand in the two Twenty20s in the USA, they were comprehensively beaten by England in a one-off game in Nottingham, and they shared a two-match home series against Australia. Their only Twenty20 so far in the subcontinent was against Bangladesh last October, which they lost.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
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