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June 1, 2009
Chris Gayle, the West Indies captain, has made no secret of his enjoyment of Twenty20. In his own words, it "wouldn't be so sad" if Test cricket gave way to the 20-over version and he was considering giving up the longer formats to focus on Twenty20. The way his men played in the Tests and ODIs in England it looked as though he wasn't the only one whose attention span was suited to three-hour games. Expectations will therefore be raised that West Indies can lift for the World Twenty20.
They are in a difficult group along with Australia and Sri Lanka - it's the only group that doesn't feature an Associate side - and therefore they must hit top form from day one. They beat Australia the only time the teams have met in a Twenty20 and they have never faced Sri Lanka.
West Indies have the quite remarkable record of having tied two of their 11 Twenty20 internationals - both against New Zealand - and they have won four and lost five. At the 2007 World Twenty20 they went down to both South Africa and Bangladesh in the group stage and were bundled out in the space of three days.
A batting line-up boasting Gayle, Xavier Marshall, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Andre Fletcher, Denesh Ramdin, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard should score its runs quickly. They are all capable of demolishing an attack with clean strikes and opposition bowlers must keep the wickets falling to stop West Indies posting a big score. Throw in Shivnarine Chanderpaul as the man who can anchor one end should wickets tumble and it's a batting order with the potential to scare any bowling group.
Those who live by the sword die by the sword. West Indies' batsmen can be destructive but they can be just as liable to capitulate dramatically. And it's impossible to predict which version of the side will arrive on any given day. At their best Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor are fine fast bowlers but opposition batsmen's eyes will light up when they see the backup brigade of Lionel Baker, Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy.
The X-man is the X-factor. Nobody highlights the disparity between potential and consistent performance in West Indies' squad quite like Xavier Marshall. Never one to back down, he has the ability to dominate even the best attacks, as he proved when Australia visited the Caribbean last year. His 36 off 15 balls in the Twenty20 in Barbados set up West Indies' victory over Ricky Ponting's men. Far too many failures fill the gaps between his triumphs but even one matchwinning effort in this tournament will justify his place.
Gayle is the only man to have scored a century in a Twenty20 international and it came at the previous World Twenty20. Having shown little interest in the Test series in England, he has no excuse now that his preferred format is taking centre stage. At his best, he can win a game in a handful of overs. The question is, after such a lean patch in England, can he reach his best?
Twenty20 form guide
Over the past 12 months, West Indies have won two Twenty20s, lost one and tied one. Importantly, they beat Australia - who they meet in the group stage - in Barbados last year. But their matches have been infrequent and it's impossible to ignore their failure to win a Test or ODI in England this year - much of the personnel remains the same from those longer formats.
Squad: Chris Gayle (capt), Denesh Ramdin, Lionel Baker, Sulieman Benn, David Bernard, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Xavier Marshall, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons, Jerome Taylor.