In a different era, in such a competition, a team blessed with the talents of the likes of Chris Gayle, Ravi Rampaul, Dwayne Smith, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Fidel Edwards would be real favourites to win this World Twenty20 Tournament.
But Gayle and Samuels debuted for the West Indies in 2000, Edwards and Rampaul in 2003 and Smith and Bravo in 2004. They have all been in town rather long. And in that time West Indies have been a losing unit. Their potential has never been in doubt, but questions about heart and mind for the job still abound.
Nevertheless, West Indies have a chance to impress on the field and not merely from the mouths of pundits and commentators.
In Gayle they possess the best and most destructive Twenty20 batsman on the planet. In Samuels there are finally signs of the maturity that 12 years ago convinced selectors that he was a potential star even though still a teenager and having never played a first-class match. Bravo, an underachiever when his immense ability is considered, has lately shown the commitment to embrace challenges, while Smith has demonstrated a willingness to think a bit more while he has a bat in hand. Some of Edwards’ best bowling spells have been in this format over the past year and if he remains frustratingly inconsistent, and injury prone, he still has the capacity to provide great shock effect.
And there are others. He says he is a bowling all-rounder, but Andre Russell’s batting has proven to be his strong suit over the past 18 months. He needs to be more consistent with pace, line and length to be the finished article, but no one generates more excitement for the future than he does, even if his opportunities are limited. He could make this tournament his showpiece.
The ICC’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year Sunil Narine will be an important factor for the West Indies in the sub-continent conditions where he first came to international prominence. He relishes Twenty20 cricket and could be the regional side’s trump card. He must be mindful, though, that just a year ago Devendra Bishoo was similarly honoured by the ICC and is now on the outside looking forlornly in.
Much has been made of Darren Sammy’s leadership and there have been positive signs in the team, even though bearing no resemblance to the unfortunate hyperbole that drifted from the Cave Hill Campus and perhaps caused Sir Frank Worrell to twitch fretfully somewhere in Valhalla. If Sammy lives up to any portion of the deliberate board-serving, academia-coated hype, it will be to the benefit of the team and the prospects of victory.
West Indies possess the skills for the job but do they have the tenacity of purpose and intestinal fortitude? We will soon see.
West Indies have played 38 Twenty20 Internationals, won 16, lost 20, with two tied. Of the Test-playing nations in the tournament, West Indies have losing records against Australia – three wins and four losses in seven games; against South Africa, one win and five losses in six matches; against Sri Lanka no wins and three losses in three matches; against Bangladesh, one win and two losses in three matches; against Zimbabwe, one defeat in the only game played.
The West Indies’ best batsman in the format has been Gayle with 757 runs in 23 matches at a strike rate of 143.91, while Sammy has been the leading bowler with 31 wickets in 28 matches at an economy rate of 6.47.
The regional side is zoned along with Ireland and Australia and take on the Aussies in their first match on Saturday at the R.Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
Tournament predictions – to at least reach the quarter-final stage.
Squad: Darren Sammy (cpt), Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, Samuel Badree, Johnson Charles, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith (WG)