West Indies target title defence with similar approach and core

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21 Oct 2021 | 01:29 PM
authorShubh Aggarwal

West Indies target title defence with similar approach and core

West Indies' approach is a double-edged sword but they will take confidence from past success to prove everyone wrong again

West Indies had to wait longer than expected but the time has come when they will start a World Cup with the favorites tag. In the ODI format, they last reached the semi-final stage in 1996. In the T20 variant, they have been crowned champions twice in the last three editions. It is their bread and butter format.

They were the first to embrace the essence of T20 cricket. It suited their style. They boarded the plane, went on a joyride, showcasing others an eccentric way to play cricket. Their approach was challenged by many but the Caribbeans restrained them with two titles. Five years later, they are in UAE, with the similar approach and a similar core of players in a bid to defend their title and win their third trophy. What marks it significant for them is the fact that T20 is their best chance to win a silverware. 

What makes them a force? 

The approach we are talking about is to maximize the number of sixes - the biggest denomination of batting currency that is runs. West Indies possess what one can analogize to a collection of heavy artillery with a natural flair to launch sixes.

Since 2020, West Indies have struck 232 sixes, 74 more than the next best, South Africa, despite playing two innings less - 25. This amounts to over nine sixes every innings on an average. They have hit lesser fours - 208. 

Their balls/boundary ratio (5.2) is the best amongst all teams participating in the 2021 T20 World Cup. England come close with 5.3 balls per boundary but they have been more reliant on fours. 

West Indies have three of the all-time highest six hitters in the T20 format - Chris Gayle (1042), Kieron Pollard (758) and Andre Russell (510). Together, they have the experience of 1,398 T20 games as yet. You add Dwayne Bravo to the list, the man with the most wickets in T20 history (551), the quadruple has an experience of nearly 2,000 T20s, more than the squad caps of a few sides. 

Besides their experience, the youngsters - Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran - have all played cricket at the highest level for well over four years. West Indies have an efficient mix of youth and experience in their squad. 

Threats

However, their combination of experience and power isn’t exactly a conflation of brain and brawn. In their bid to maximize sixes, the Caribbean batsmen have sacrificed skillful strike-rate rotation on tricky tracks. Consequently, their record against spin is dicey. 

Their dot-ball percentage against spin is 45.5, the highest amongst all participants in this World Cup. 

This allows the opposition to target West Indies with spin. A deeper look exposes them on the match-up front. Since 2020, their left-handers have a strike-rate of only 105.8 against off-spinners and 78 against left-arm wrist spin. Tabraiz Shamsi has already spun a web around them earlier this year and will aim for the same as South Africa are in the same group as West Indies. Other two sides - England and Australia - will employ Moeen Ali and Glenn Maxwell. Similarly, their right-handers strike at only 88 against leg break, bringing Adil Rashid and Adam Zampa into play. 

West Indies also lack pace in their bowling. The seam department relies heavily on variations. 

Overall, West Indies can be a one-trick pony in both departments - ‘all or nothing’ shots with the bat and pace off with the ball. The conundrum is that the pitch will suit only one of these methods at once. 

Opportunities

To tackle spin better, West Indies picked Roston Chase who is yet to play T20 cricket at the international level. The Player of the Tournament in CPL 2021, Chase is selected to replicate the anchor role that Marlon Samuels used to play earlier. It came in handy to help them cross the line in the final in 2012 and 2016. In their current setup, it will be interesting to see how West Indies fit him in their XI. 

Players to watch out for

A left-arm seamer, Obed McCoy averages 14.7 for 18 wickets in 10 T20Is this year. His economy, despite bowling in the Powerplay and at the death is only 7.1. McCoy can bowl in 140s but his most lethal variation is the back of the hand slower ball which he delivers with the pin-point accuracy of a yorker. He troubled both Australia and South Africa in the home summer and will be a vital asset in West Indies’ attack. 

Hetmyer has gone through various ups and downs but his recent form radiates promising signs. A top-order batsman generally, Hetmyer showed his versatility in IPL. He was fruitful in the finisher’s role in IPL, consistently scoring runs under tough circumstances. It is unknown where he will bat in this Caribbean line-up but he is certain starter and a player to watch out for. 

Probable XI

The balance of West Indies depends on a number of factors, the most important being Russell’s fitness to bowl four overs. Fabian Allen, out due to ankle injury, is a big miss and affects batting depth. Hayden Walsh will feature against right-handed heavy line-ups and on slow tracks. He can be swapped with a pacer or Chase depending on the conditions. Gayle’s modest form puts his spot under the scanner. If he bats, does he open since the team holds many middle-order options? 

There are many questions that will be answered when West Indies take the field against England on October 23 to start their campaign. 

Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Kieron Pollard (c), Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Akeil Hossain, Hayden Walsh Jr./Ravi Rampaul, Obed McCoy


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England vs West IndiesICC World Twenty20, 2021West IndiesObed McCoyRoston ChaseShimron HetmyerChris GayleKieron PollardDwayne BravoAndre RussellEvin LewisNicholas Pooran

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