By Amindha de Alwis
Five years have lapsed since Carlos Brathwaite thundered Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes into the Kolkata sky to take the West Indies to their second T20 World Cup title. So long has the gap between tournaments been, that Brathwaite has since gone on to captain the West Indies T20 side and thereafter suffer a fall from grace to leave him well out of the picture by the time the squad for this year’s tournament was named.
West Indies’ ordinary T20I record during the five years in question does not quite do justice to the threat they are expected to pose in the coming few weeks primarily due to the team rarely having the option of fielding their first choice XI in bilateral T20is. The 15-man squad named for the tournament, however, is teeming with proven T20 match-winners and features a blend of youth and experience.
The islanders will be led by Kieron Pollard who will be faced with a tricky proposition in finalising his starting XI from the star-studded squad. Wicketkeeper batsman Nicholas Pooran will be his deputy.
Two eleventh-hour bolters into the squad were Roston Chase and Ravi Rampaul who impressed in this year’s Caribbean Premier League and pipped the likes of Jason Holder and Sheldon Cottrell into the final 15.
Chase who is uncapped in T20Is averaged 70 with a strike rate in excess of 150 in the tournament while the experienced Rampaul claimed 17 scalps in eight games.
The cynosure of all eyes, however, will be the big-hitting brigade that West Indies possess with the likes of Evin Lewis, Andre Russell, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer and skipper Pollard himself presenting a daunting task to any bowling line-up.
Given the nature of the pitches in the UAE, former USA-international, Hayden Walsh Jr. may have an important role to play with the ball. The leg-spinner claimed 11 wickets in four games versus Australia in July and proved a handful to negotiate in the middle-overs.
West Indies are in Group One alongside England, South Africa, Australia and two qualifying teams, and would fancy their chances of finishing in the top two and securing a semi-final berth. Going all the way and securing back-to-back titles is very much a possibility for what on paper looks the most powerful batting unit in the competition with perhaps England their closest competition in that regard.