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Analysis

Five pressing issues for Nicholas Pooran to ponder

Workloads, a weak bowling attack and the golden generation's exodus will be among his immediate worries as West Indies' new white-ball captain

Santokie Nagulendran
04-May-2022
Nicholas Pooran leads the team off after a slim win, Bangladesh vs West Indies, T20 World Cup, Group 1, Sharjah, October 29, 2021

Nicholas Pooran will have to plunge into full-time leadership without the experience of Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle to lean on  •  ICC via Getty

Nicholas Pooran has been appointed West Indies' white-ball captain, succeeding Kieron Pollard who announced his international retirement last month. With a busy international schedule coming up, including a T20 World Cup at the end of it, ESPNcricinfo scans an eye over the most pressing issues in Pooran's inbox.
Replacing Pollard, on and off the pitch
The first task facing Pooran will be to build on the team unity created by Pollard, who galvanised the side in a series victory against England in January. But especially in T20Is, this is a largely inexperienced side that will need a captain who can continue to provide vision and clarity. Pooran excelled with the bat in his last international assignment, in India earlier this year, averaging 61.33 with a strike rate of 140.45 across three T20Is. He will hold the team to the same high standards Pollard did.
Pooran will also need to decide who takes over from Pollard in the T20I squad as the designated finisher; the powerful Rovman Powell could be moved down the order to fulfil such a role. In ODIs, Pollard tended to move up the order when the innings needed impetus, so with an abundance of allrounders already in the side, rather than a finisher, he could be replaced by a specialist batter like Nkrumah Bonner, who was recalled for the ODI series against India.
Pollard also had the support of senior players such as Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons and Dwayne Bravo during the majority of his captaincy, which Pooran will miss. Former captain Jason Holder will be vital in providing assistance, while Shai Hope will serve as vice-captain in ODIs.
Managing his own workload
Days after the conclusion of the IPL, West Indies will travel to play ODI series in Netherlands and then Pakistan. Although they are now unlikely to directly qualify for the 2023 World Cup, the series are worth Super League points and Pooran will want to make an immediate impact as leader. Having seen how Pollard was treated by some sections of the media in the Caribbean, he will be fully aware of the pressure he will face if early results do not go his way.
West Indies will then go on to face Bangladesh, India and New Zealand in white-ball series as part of their home summer. This unrelenting fixture list continues with the Caribbean Premier League, where Pooran will turn out for the Trinbago Knight Riders, followed soon after by the T20 World Cup in Australia, where West Indies play in the first round.
As well as captaining and leading the middle order through these games, Pooran will also be keeping wicket in T20Is, a fair responsibility. All signs so far suggest he excels under such responsibility - both his average and strike rate are significantly higher in the T20Is he's captained in - though he may well relinquish the gloves for some matches in order to balance that workload.
West Indies' bowling woes
A clear problem with the side in both white-ball formats is the inability to take wickets. The struggles have seen veteran bowlers such as Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul recalled to white-ball cricket since the turn of 2021. One advantage that Pooran has is that Obed McCoy is now fit and available to play for the first time since last year's T20 World Cup. As a strike bowler who is effective in the Powerplay, he will be a massive asset.
Alzarri Joseph has built a reputation for big-name wickets in ODI cricket, but he has lacked consistency in the format. It will be up to Pooran to try and get the best out of him. Some good performances for the Gujarat Titans in this season's IPL indicate that Joseph could also be handed a T20I debut in the coming months.
Also intriguing will be whether Pooran has any influence in handing the talented Jayden Seales a white-ball debut to partner McCoy. Seales was included in white-ball squads earlier this year but not chosen for the starting XI. With squads set to be rotated in order to manage the schedule, it would be surprising if we did not see Seales play under Pooran sooner rather than later.
Middle-order consistency
Evin Lewis returning should aid the side's top-order issues, but the middle is the real problem, with players such as Darren Bravo and Roston Chase consistently unable to build innings in white-ball formats. Pooran will need to improve his own batting form in ODIs, having only scored one half century in his last ten innings. While there is an abundance of lower-order allrounders who can accelerate an innings, the inability of the side to run singles and rotate strike has been a massive hindrance, particularly in 50-overs cricket where the side has lost their past two series, to Ireland and India.
It will be up to Pooran to lead by example by scoring runs and guiding players by building partnerships. Pooran has improved his batting in this year's IPL, working closely with Brian Lara at Sunrisers Hyderabad. Could we see Lara integrated into the West Indies set-up in some capacity?
Missing stars
Pollard, Bravo and Gayle had a combined 271 T20I caps between them and a staggering 588 ODI caps. Losing the core of the golden generation in the space of six months has created a massive void in the side. The likes of Dominic Drakes, Odean Smith and Romario Shepherd have debuted but they have not had too many experienced heads to turn to for advice.
West Indies do still have experienced players who are flourishing, just not in maroon. Sunil Narine, Russell and Shimron Hetmyer, for various reasons, are not currently playing international cricket. Pooran will be aware of how valuable they are to the side, but will he decide to start conversations with them about a path back in?