The warm-ups are now over. The real contest begins tomorrow.
West Indies men will start their 2016 ICC World Twenty20 World Cup campaign against England at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, while simultaneously West Indies Women will take to the field against Pakistan at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, Chennai.
For Darren Sammy and several of his charges, this could be their last shot at World Cup glory with the likes of Chris Gayle, Denesh Ramdin, Sulieman Benn, Marlon Samuels, Samuel Badree, Jerome Taylor, and the captain himself, the wrong side of age 30. Sammy was at the helm of the side when they won the tournament in 2012.
For West Indies Women this will be captain Stafanie Taylor’s first time in charge of the squad at a major world tournament. Unlike Sammy, she will have a mainly youthful side with the likes of the emerging Hayley Matthews, as well as Shaquana Quintyne, Anisa Mohammed, Shamilia Connell and the explosive allrounder Deandra Dottin at the peak of their powers.
As usual, in this form of cricket, West Indies will pin much of their batting hopes on Gayle at the top of the order. The 36-year-old is the all-time leading run-scorer in T20 cricket and has been at the heart of West Indies’ efforts in this format since its advent. When he does well, usually West Indies do well. But captain Sammy was adamant before tomorrow’s game that Gayle was not his only weapon.
“It is up to us to set up the innings very well and we have one of the most destructive T20 batsman in the world in Chris, but there is never too much pressure on Chris,” said Sammy.
“Chris will just do what Chris has done throughout his career. Chris can turn it on whenever he feels like it.
“We know that Chris is a massive figure, but when you look at the dressing room we have [Dwayne] Bravo, [Andre] Russell, Carlos [Brathwaite] –– that’s a lot of power.”
Sammy was confident he had the weapons to combat any spin threat which England offered tomorrow in the shape of Adil Rashid or Moeen Ali.
“If you look at our middle, where you have potentially Marlon [Samuels], Bravo, Ramdin, Russell at six. Bravo is one of the most experienced as he has been playing in these conditions. Wankhede is a more seamer-friendly track; the games that have been played at the IPL tell you that.
“You have Bravo, Russell, Sammy, Jason [Holder], Carlos Braithwaite . . . that’s a lot of power, so the key for us is each player accepting their own personal role in the team and be responsible and not leaving it for any one person.”
Sammy cited the Australia warm-up game as an example of West Indies becoming more efficient in finishing games. While Sammy ransacked an unbeaten 50 off 28 balls, Braithwaite blasted 33 off 14 and Russell 29 off 15 as they reached their target with a ball to spare. Sammy feels that a robust lower order has ensured his team remained unfazed by tall scores or dire situations.
There is a cloud over Russell having failed to make himself available on three occasions for drug testing and now being under investigation. The 27-year-old could be banned for two years if found guilty by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) for missing the tests over the past 12 months, But Sammy said the team had been very supportive of the Jamaican all-rounder.
“We as a team have supported Russell. We are confident he will be taking part in the full tournament and having an impact like he’s done in the last four tournaments he’s played (in) around the world,” Sammy told reporters in India today.
Meanwhile after defeating South Africa 2-1 in the recent One-Day International series in South Africa, West Indies Women were defeated by Proteas women by the same margin in the Twenty20I series that followed, mainly because of batting collapses.
They have also suffered batting meltdowns in their warm-up matches in India, capitulating to the tournament favourites Australia in their last warm-up game.
There is a feeling among international sides that their batting is too heavily reliant on captain Taylor and Dottin and history has proven this to be true. Their double failure has more often than not led to defeat. Most, if not all, of their victories have been achieved through contributions from this pair.
Others like Matthews, whose form has been patchy recently, former captain Merissa Aguilleira and the Knight twin, Kycia and Kyshona, will need to add more muscle to the team’s batting efforts.
Like their male counterparts, their tournament longevity will depend heavily on team, rather than a few individuals.
Both matches start at 10 a.m. Barbados time.