Best keeper, best spinner, and a Russell-sized hole - questions for West Indies to address

ODI, T20I captaincy was 'sprung upon me' - Kieron Pollard (3:55)

West Indies allrounder on playing franchise cricket around the world and captaining the WI limited-overs sides (3:55)

West Indies are slowly getting the band back together under a new management in the lead-up to their T20 World Cup defence next year. Chris Gayle is on a break, and Andre Russell is still not fit enough to play international cricket, but Lendl Simmons is back, as is Kieron Pollard, who is now in charge of both the T20I and ODI teams, and Dwayne Bravo has hinted at coming out of retirement.

Pollard began his tenure by leading West Indies to their first ODI series victory in five years, against Afghanistan, but then they lost the subsequent three-match T20I series. Here are some big questions that West Indies need to answer during their T20I series against India.

Are the CPL's best good enough?

Guyana Amazon Warriors opener Brandon King and CPL 2019 champion with Barbados Tridents Hayden Walsh Jr, the top run-getter and top wicket-taker respectively in the T20 competition, were fast-tracked into the limited-overs squads for the series against Afghanistan in India.

While King did make a fairly compact 39 on his ODI debut from No. 4, he couldn't quite adjust to the more sluggish tracks that Lucknow rolled out for the T20Is. Opening the batting in the shortest format, King scrounged scores of 4, 12, and 1.

Walsh Jr has been picked for the wicket-taking threat he poses with his legbreaks as well as zippy wrong 'uns, but he struggled for control against Afghanistan and proved to be expensive in both the ODIs and T20Is.

Sure, these are still early days yet for the two CPL stars in international cricket, but a series against a full-strength India line-up in India brings with it greater pressure. The talent scouts from various IPL franchises will also keep a close eye on their performances in this series. Do they have it in them to stand up to this kind of pressure?

Who's your No. 1 spinner?

Sunil Narine returned to the West Indies attack for the three T20Is against India in the USA and Caribbean earlier this year, but a finger injury sustained during CPL 2019 has sidelined him from this tour of India. Walsh Jr, the wristspinner, leaked runs in the ODIs and the first two T20Is, prompting the management to bench him for the decider. Trinbago Knight Riders left-arm fingerspinner Khary Pierre got a game instead and although he didn't bowl a single over in the powerplay - his happy place in the CPL - he offered Pollard a semblance of control by attacking the stumps and hitting hard lengths.

ALSO READ: Khary Pierre, TKR's master of thrift

So, what do you want, West Indies - Pierre's parsimony or Walsh's variations? You can't separate them when it comes to fielding, though. Both players are great athletes who can provide electric moments both in the infield as well in the deep.

How will captain Pollard fare?

Pollard has led West Indies in only eight internationals so far - six of those came against Afghanistan in the previous series. He might be a bit of an unknown quantity as captain at the international level, but he has enough experience in franchise cricket.

His in-your-face captaincy and aggressive approach saw him go from villain to hero when Tridents secured their maiden CPL title in 2014. There had been reports of protests in Barbados after Trinidadian Pollard had been appointed captain of Tridents ahead of locals Dwayne Smith and Kirk Edwards, but Pollard brushed off the incident and lifted the team to the title, eventually winning the approval of the locals. And, more recently, Pollard took over as Knight Riders' captain and nearly lifted the team to the final.

Pollard has also taken many youngsters like Nicholas Pooran and Pierre under his wing, passing on his wealth of T20 knowledge and making them feel comfortable in the dressing room.

How can you fill the Russell-sized hole?

Russell is a monster-hitter and can crank it up to 140kph with the ball when he's fit. How can you replace him? The simple answer is you can't. West Indies have dropped former T20I captain Carlos Brathwaite and are now looking up to St Kitts & Nevis Patriots' Fabian Allen to try and fill that void.

In 2018, Allen was part of a West Indies B side in the inaugural Global T20 Canada. In less than two years, he has made a swift step-up to international cricket, and even represented West Indies in the 50-over World Cup earlier this year. His USP is his power-hitting, which has set the CPL alight in the past two seasons. Allen shellacked 177 off 79 balls between overs 16 and 20 at a strike rate of nearly 225 in CPL 2019.

He can also bowl useful left-arm fingerspin, and is one of the best fielders in the world. If you don't believe me, just watch this catch. Allen has just recovered from injury to make the trip back to India and it remains to be seen if he can reprise his CPL heroics against a well-rounded India side.

Who should be the keeper?

Thirty-four-year-old Denesh Ramdin played his part in Knight Riders winning back-to-back CPL titles in 2017 and 2018, and continues to be a safe wicketkeeper, but could West Indies have invested in a younger keeper in Shai Hope? Or will Pooran take the gloves from the second T20I once his ball-tampering ban ends?

Ramdin had been part of the T20I team that toured India last year and managed just 27 runs in three innings, at not even a run-a-ball. Before that, he had struggled so badly in the Pakistan Super League that his ability to rotate the strike - or the lack of it - in subcontinent conditions came under intense scrutiny.

While Hope isn't a big-hitter either, he is more adept at tapping the ball into the gaps and keeping the scorecard ticking, something that was on display in the Afghanistan T20I series decider in Lucknow. In the absence of the injured Ramdin, Hope stepped in and made a valiant fifty in a challenging chase against Afghanistan's spin-heavy attack.

Among the three keepers, though, Pooran seems to be better equipped to fit into a dual role: keep wicket and seamlessly slot into the middle order. Pooran strikes at nearly 144 in T20 cricket while the strike rates of Ramdin and Hope are 118.25 and 128.23 respectively.