Just under a year remains until the 2020 T20 World Cup gets under way in Australia, with the 12 top teams set to battle it out for the grand prize Down Under.
The premier international sides have already shifted their focus to the shortest format of the game with the next 12 months set to afford them ample time to get their T20 combinations right.
As we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the major contenders for the 2020 tournament, it is time to cast a glance at defending champions West Indies. Click here to read about the other leading contenders for the tournament.
West Indies are a name synonymous with T20 cricket, with the shortest format of the game providing them the perfect pad to express that Caribbean flair. No side in history has managed to lift the T20 World Cup title on two separate occasions except the Windies, and it is no surprise really, given the manner in which their players have taken to the format ever since its inception.
The coach who led them to the 2016 title at Kolkata is back at the helm after Phil Simmons buried his previous differences with the board to return for a second term.
While their Test and ODI results have plummeted drastically over the last decade, T20 cricket has only prospered in the Caribbean with the likes of Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo making a killing across the globe as ‘T20 mercenaries’.
While Gayle and Bravo’s Windies career has now ended, their success in the various franchise leagues around the world has already inspired a new generation blessed with some of the most exciting talent in the game. Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran and Evin Lewis are just some of the most recent examples to have come through that Windies conveyor belt in recent times, while the well-organised Caribbean Premier League keeps pumping out similarly talented players on a consistent basis.
Throw in the more experienced stalwarts such as Pollard, big-hitting all-rounder Andre Russell and Test skipper Jason Holder, and you have one of the most balanced T20 teams in the world right there.
While their World Cup performances are clearly stellar, the Windies have been found wanting in the bilateral arena in recent times. Constant chopping and changing of the playing XI has not helped their cause with their results since the turn of 2018 barely justifying the huge talent at their disposal.
That inconsistency showed in their most recent T20I series as well where they were handed a 1-2 defeat by lowly Afghanistan.
Simmons’ return as head coach should help in that regard with the former all-rounder being one of the most experienced and well-respected coaches in the international arena.
While the talent is no doubt plenty, the experience is clearly lacking with several newcomers in their squad lately.
What they need to do in the next 12 months
The most recent edition of the CPL has thrown up some exciting names such as top-order batsman Brandon King and leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr. They, along with Pooran, Hetmyer and Alzarri Joseph, mean that the Windies have a very young core which needs to be honed with more experience.
They need to be given a consistent run at the international level in the coming months to help them find consistency. For that they require able leadership at the helm which Simmons and newly-appointed T20 skipper Pollard should be able to provide.
Their T20 engagements are on the low side with only two bilateral series against India and Ireland to come before they take the plane to Australia for the World Cup.
However, most of their star names will most definitely be gaining more experience in franchise leagues such as the IPL, BBL, CPL, BPL and the PSL. Hence, the lack of international matches shouldn’t be too big of an issue for the Caribbean side.
Key player – Andre Russell
If Windies can wrap the muscular all-rounder in cotton wool till the next World Cup, they most definitely should. He has been plagued with knee injuries for some time now and they flared up again recently to cost Windies their 2019 World Cup campaign in England.
However, he is, as always, a man in big demand in the franchise leagues around the world and that means that there will be barely any time to rest those knees.
A fully-fit Russell gives Windies the most explosive lower-order batsman in the business who can change the complexion of the game in the blink of an eye. He is good enough to get into the side purely as a bowler as well with his pace and bounce capable of troubling the most accomplished of batsmen.
Know more about Sport360 Application