The road to the future has begun. With the World T20 just a year away, West Indies will begin their quest for the right combination of players and team balance to defend the champion’s tag.
As interim chairman of selection pointed out” It’s not just about the present but we are also looking at the T20 World Cup coming up next year and it is important that we find the right combination of players and the right formula for defending our title.”
There are many instances when a veteran player’s performance has nosedived day in day out yet they have picked on the basis of their experience coupled by the weight of their personality and fandom. Such was the case with Chris Gayle. The ‘Universe Boss’ has played five matches since Jan 2018 scoring just 38 runs with an abysmal average of 9.5.
Since Gayle has made himself unavailable, the team can think of the future, and plan whether it wants to try Sunil Narine who has earned huge success as a pinch hitter or look for someone like Nicholas Pooran to move up to the opening slot.
In the recently concluded Indian Premier League, the Trinidad born batsman showed the glimpses of his expertise after having scored 168 in six innings with the limited opportunities that were presented to him. Having said that John Campbell is also a feasible option for the opening slot.
Campbell has played four T20s for Jamaica Tallawahs scoring a meagre 50 runs but during the ODI series against England we saw a glimpse of what future holds for him in his small little innings of 23 at Bridgetown.
Since 2018, Evin Lewis, the hard hitting opener has a batting average of 28.16 the second best in the team. He has scored 169 runs with a strike rate of 194.25. He is the only batsman to have scored two centuries in the Windies batting lineup. Ironically his first century came against India at the same venue where the first T20I is slated to take place.
Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Rovman Powell make up a dream middle order pair. The rookie, Hetmyer has played only handful of T20Is and hence the inclusion of Kieron Pollard with his dearth of experience will fill the hollow.
Rovman Powell has played 20 T20I till now and has managed to score 221 runs with a low average of 17 and below par strike rate of 115.
Although Pollard has played only two matches in the past one year, he is a safe bet as he has the ability to change the complexion of a match in matter of a few overs.
Andre Russell, if fit comes as a finisher and will storm his way to play a certain cameo.
Captain Carlos Brathwaite since taking over the captaincy has the second best win/ loss record. Having said that, since 2018 he did play only two matches and the captaincy responsibility was handled by Jason Holder. Now the task lies ahead of him is finding the right players and backing them the entire way.
The bowling unit has mixture of sheer pace with the likes of Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas in the fore. Adding to that Keemo Paul, Powell and Pollard bring in the repertoire of mixed bag variations but still they lacks the potential of picking wickets at crucial junctures especially in the middle phase (7-15).
With the inclusion of Sunil Narine, Brathwaite is assured of 4 overs from him. Over the years, Narine has been repeatedly asked to remodel his action, due to which he lost the charm and potency he once had. He will rejoin the side after a gap of almost two years having played the last T20I against England back in September 2017.
Sheldon Cottrell has been the pick of the bowlers in the powerplay. Since 2018 he has picked 6 wickets in seven matches with a decent average of 19 but didn’t get any support from his team-mates. Oshane Thomas has picked four wickets in seven matches after giving away 9.58 runs-an over. In middle overs he has managed to pick just one wicket so far.
Keemo Paul will bring in all kinds of variations during the middle overs. He is the only bowler in the current Windies lineup to have picked wickets regularly in all three phases of play.
The duo of Fabian Allen and Khary Pierre will form the bedrock of the spin attack. Allen has been successful in the first powerplay but in the middle overs has picked a lone wicket after giving 7.38 runs per over.
Khary Pierre has played a lone T20I till now. Andre Russell with his aggravated knee problem may be held back. If he is fully fit, then the West Indies bowling woes might get some respite.
Its matter of just tweaking and working on the permutations and combinations. Having said that, the devastating top order have to fill in the void of the less potent bowling.
Probable XI: Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite (c ), Sunil Narine, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas, Fabian Allen, Keemo Paul.