Our World T20 previews continue, with Devon discussing the West Indies. Will they repeat 2012, or will it be another turn in the downwards spiral?
When the West Indies hit the park for a Test series, immediate questions are raised: are Bangladesh favourites now? Are the Irish really less deserving of Test status?
When they take guard in an ODI, the query is bipolar: which West Indies will turn up today?
But when it’s Twenty20, the question is far more simple: will the West Indies win the title?
They did in 2012, with a team consisting of Darren Sammy as skipper, two Bravos, Narine and Badree. Gayle and Samuels batted them to success, with Narine and Rampaul the key wicket-takers.
Four years later, there are many similarities – Sammy remains in charge, Gayle and Samuels remain key batsmen (if increasingly unreliable). But the changes are huge too. Narine’s been chucked out, while Rampaul has been dumped, returned and then re-spurned.
Samuel Badree, for a long time the world’s number-one ranked Twenty20 bowler, hasn’t played an international since 2014 – so long, in fact, that he no longer appears as a current player in the ICC rankings.
Added to that, the uncapped name of Evin Lewis and near-uncapped Ashley Nurse appear in this year’s squad.
It’s evident that, for all the high-profile crashers, bashers and smashers the West Indies have hinged their T20 reputation on for the last ten years, this isn’t a squad with the competence of 2010, 2012 or even 2014.
Where do you start with a problem like the West Indies? T20 might be difficult to predict by dint of its existence, but the calypso cricketers are even more difficult to quantify than most.
At the top of the order, Chris Gayle and Johnson Charles are currently pencilled in to take the opening role. Charles, a late replacement for Darren Bravo, is someone of acres of talent; but talent that is yet to be justified.
Gayle, for all his grasping at youth – “don’t blush baby” mixed with bedroom stripper poles and nightclub proprietary – can’t escape that he is now 36. With the bat, he can still hit a long way. With the ball, he’s an increasingly rare presence. Will he have an impact on this World T20? Well, no. Probably not.
Beyond that, the top-order is very short. Marlon Samuels has done very little – think about it, when was the last time a Marlon headline wasn’t related to chucking, match-fixing or player strikes? Yeah, the 2012 final. That’s a while back now.
In The Middle
Dwayne Bravo has been adulated by both Curtly Ambrose and Tony Cozier in recent days, but still has room to improve – especially with the bat. The shadow of that India tour still hangs over Bravo, and it’s hard not to feel playing for his nation isn’t quite the motivation it could be. The lack of his half-brother Darren, as well as Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons, are all huge blows to the batting order. They’re probably the West Indies three key batsmen in the shortest format, and their void has is very visible.
Who else? The consistent failures of Denesh Ramdin offer little hope, and the likes of Andre Fletcher and Evin Lewis are hardly world-beaters. It’s telling that the lower-order contributions of Darren Sammy, Jason Holder, Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite are going to be integral to the team’s chances.
New Zealand can rely on Messrs Southee, Sodhi and Nathan McCullum for handy runs, but the top-order make those contributions bonuses, not the difference between success and elimination.
The decision to choose Lewis over the likes of Dwayne Smith and Jonathan Carter seems increasingly bizarre.
Fizz And Turn
With the ball, the withdrawal of Sunil Narine is huge – spin now relies on Sulieman Benn, who (let’s be honest) is pretty average. Alongside him is Ashley Nurse, he of the four international T20 caps in five years. The other spinner is Samuel Badree who was once outstanding, but through injury, dengue fever and god knows what else, has quickly slipped down the charts.
Marlon Samuels can’t bowl, and Chris Gayle doesn’t bowl. And that’s it. No other man in the squad bowls spin. It’s been known that the West Indies aren’t a team who turn the ball – Lance Gibbs, Garry Sobers, and…uh…that’s about it – but it’s still a remarkable dearth of talent.
Bounce And Pace
Pace bowling is spearheaded by Jerome Taylor, a man who could cause problems – few players have the same capability to run through batting line-ups. But a T20i economy rate over eight, and not one four-for in international T20 cricket, proves that Taylor needs to adapt to the format better.
The other major quicks are Andre Russell and Darren Sammy – one a very quick blaster, the other a much more niggly character. They complement one another well, and Sammy’s wise head means he’s not just captain, but head of the bowling pack too. They’re added to by another all-rounder (even though that may be a rather grand term for some of them) in Dwayne Bravo. He bats, he bowls, now he just needs to perform.
Carlos Brathwaite is there or thereabouts, but very inexperienced. One T20i in 2011, and a second in 2015. One Test, and seven ODIs. It’s not the lengthiest of CVs. But this does give him an element of the unknown – he could yet spring a surprise.
Jason Holder is the other specialist bowler, but while captain in the 50-over and 5-day formats, Holder is nowhere near a T20 certainty. A good bowler, but a man who would be the weak-link in a T20 bowling attack.