“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well.” ― The Shawshank Redemption
The best thing about art is it lets you live in your way. Even when the worst is knocking on the door, you can breathe easy, hoping just another moment of sheer drama would rescue you. At times, it does, many times, it doesn’t. And that uncertainty is probably the best thing that sports teaches its practitioners - to embrace the fundamental aspects of life with equanimity. Windies learned that in a big way in the course of the ongoing ICC T20 World Cup in UAE.
Notwithstanding the recent results, West Indies will be remembered as men’s T20I’s the first truly great side and their success in 2012 and 2016 will go down in the history books as the finest in the shortest format’s short history. With that reputation firmly established, the Windies will hit the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi to give their superstars a final hurray against a rejuvenated Australian side that mean business. The damning memories can be forgotten, the golden past will be something to hold on to.
Australia would know. It is the one format they haven’t mastered. Sure enough, there were a few close run-ins but mostly, on the periphery. This year, they haven’t really looked at their best but kind of found their missing puzzles at the same position throughout the Super12 phase and another show will ensure a berth in the semi-finals. That must be enough motivation for the Aussies to adhere to their philosophy.
What’s ailing Windies?
With three losses from four games, the defending champions are virtually knocked out of the tournament, and at the core of these results, lay a failure in replicating what has always worked for them. As a nominal blueprint, the Windies have always struck big in the first six overs, but this year, the instability has been telling.
Windies lost 2+ wickets in the powerplay in 3 of the 4 matches and in one game, they didn’t lose a wicket in PP, they collapsed in middle overs and didn’t put enough runs on the board. In the super 12 stages, only Scotland and Bangladesh lost more wickets in the first six overs than West Indies. It would have been understandable if they had scored enough runs in the process of losing wickets but the fact that the Windies have the worst balls per boundary scoring frequency and highest dot ball percentage in the middle-over phase in the Super12 stage kind of put them in the backburner.
Not only with the bat, but the Windies pacers have also failed to step up, ensuring the side lost their competitive edge. West Indies pace unit have an SR of 36.5, the worst among pace bowling units in T20 WC 2021. All of these factors have come together to haunt them massively and it remains to be seen if they can actually string together a good performance to cap off their tournament on a decent note.
The Josh factor
Australia have found an unlikely candidate in Josh Hazlewood to rely upon in the World Cup and the New South Welshman has kind of gone about his business quite nicely. He has been a true force in the powerplay, having taken 18 of his 25 wickets in that phase. Among players from the top 10 teams, only Nasum Ahmed of Bangladesh has picked more wickets in PP in T20Is this year than Hazlewood.
With Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar taking care of the middle-order exchange, Hazlewood will have to be at his best to contain the new-ball assault. Windies have been really tentative against swing bowling and whatever little that’s to offer, the Aussie will have his share of crack.
Australia are most likely to remain unchanged after the big win over Bangladesh and even though there is a slight bit of concern regarding the middle-order, a combination of Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, and Marcus Stoinis remain their best bet.
Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood
Given the way he bowled in the home series against Australia, Hayden Walsh Jnr may come into the squad as a replacement for Ravi Rampaul.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Roston Chase, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Kieron Pollard (c), Shimron Hetmyer, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Hayden Walsh Jnr