Gayle, Russell hold key for maverick West Indies

Chris Gayle will be the centre of attention once again in the upcoming World T20 © Getty Images

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Till Shamar Springer rolled his chest rhythmically, there was Chris Gayle and co. galloping to the Gangnam Style, having won their maiden World T20 crown, their first world title in 33 years.

Four years on, the core of that 2012 batch remains intact. But there are many questions Darren Sammy and his band of merry men will have to answer if they are to repeat the 2012 feat. The biggest weakness for West Indies is a batting line-up that is powerful on paper, but low on returns and inconsistent in form.

Only Gayle, their best batsman, emerges unscathed. In his 43 T20I innings, Gayle has scored 1406 runs at an average of 35.15 and a strike rate of 142.60. Contrast that with Marlon Samuels, who was the Man of the Match in the 2012 final, but has scored just one half-century in his last 12 T20I innings. He has not played any T20 cricket since the Bangladesh Premier League last November.

Denesh Ramdin is the other batsman who is struggling. If not for his wicketkeeping, he might have found it hard to retain his place. In 34 T20I innings, he has managed 385 runs at an average of 16.73, which is the lowest among all wicketkeepers who have played 20 or more T20I innings. The other specialist batsmen, Johnson Charles (22 T20I innings, 463 runs at 21.04), Andre Fletcher (24, 427 at 19.40) have been equally inconsistent.

West Indies’ biggest strength remains their quartet of allrounders: Dwayne Bravo, Sammy, Carlos Braithwaite and Andre Russell. These four can destroy bowling attacks mercilessly as Sammy showed in the second warm-up match against Australia in Kolkata which West Indies won. In the absence of Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard, these four men will also take the responsibility of leading the bowling attack.

As Sammy has been saying, this tournament is the last chance to win big. For him. For Gayle. For Bravo. For Samuels. And, probably, even Russell, who is battling knee problems. These men have at times been labelled bandits for choosing lucrative T20 leagues over representing West Indies. Will they now help West Indies loot the ransom at the World T20? If so, it would be worth watching how they attempt to outdo the “Springer roll”.

At the helm

One disadvantage West Indies face is not having played as one unit since the last edition of the tournament. It is here that Sammy’s skills as a motivational speaker will be handy. As a leader he has the respect of his players and bonds well with all the seniors.

Equally influential would be Phil Simmons, their coach, who enters his first major global tournament in this capacity. A quiet presence in the dressing room he might be, but Simmons believes in hard work and discipline. Simmons was briefly suspended last year by the WICB for publicly stating that he did not get his players of choice in the squad for the Sri Lanka tour. The players know Simmons is on their side. Simmons wants acknowledgement in the form of performances.

Key stat


This is the number of T20Is West Indies have played since the last World T20, the lowest among all ten Full Members. However, perhaps this stat could be offset by another: 42.4 is the average number of T20s played by the 15 squad members since the last World T20 – the highest for any team!

Leading men

Andre Russell was the IPL’s Most Valuable Player last year, playing for Kolkata Knight Riders. He won the Big Bash League with the Sydney Thunder recently. During the Pakistan Super League, Russell declared he was hungry to perform and played a key role in Islamabad United’s victorious campaign in the league’s first season. Now Russell is ready for the World T20. It offers him the opportunity to correct something he would not like to hear: in the seven T20I innings he has played since the 2014 World T20, Russell has scored just 72 runs. And in the eight matches in which he has bowled during that period, he has just two wickets at an economy rate of 10.3. He has done it for the franchises. Now it is the Caribbean’s turn.

Chris Gayle is the second highest run-getter in World T20s (807 runs) and the highest among all who are playing this edition of the tournament. He has hit the most fifty-plus scores (8) and the most sixes (49). Despite the demands on him, Gayle must be well aware that the longer he stays at the crease the better chance West Indies have of compiling high totals or chasing them down.

Can Andre Russell deliver in West Indian colours? © Associated Press

Burning question

Who is going to replace Narine as the match-winning spinner?

Samuel Badree might raise his hand to answer that question. Badree has the experience of playing on Indian pitches in the IPL with Rajasthan Royals, has opened the bowling with the new ball, and is accurate with his legspinners. He is no door mat. His economy rate of 5.39 in T20Is is the best among all bowlers who have bowled 50 or more overs in T20Is. Badree knows he is no Narine, who was one of the most dangerous bowlers at death. Badree has never bowled at death in T20Is.

However, he trumps Narine in Powerplays: in 22 T20I innings, Badree has taken 19 wickets at an economy rate of 5.39. In the same first-six-overs phase, Narine has had 26 innings, taking seven wickets at an economy rate of 6.20. While Ashley Nurse or Sulieman Benn will play the supporting role, it is Badree who will need to fire the shots early to make sure West Indies are standing strong at the end.

World T20 history

Twice West Indies failed to make the knockouts: 2007, and then, embarrassingly, at home in 2010. Twice they made the semi-finals: in 2009 and 2014. Once they danced with the World T20 crown – in 2012.

In their own words

“The next T20 World Cup is in 2020. The most experienced guys will not be part of the next World Cup. Everybody is focused on winning. It would mean a lot to us and the people at home in the current situation our cricket is in if this team comes here… not only the men’s team but also the women’s team if we can win.”
Darren Sammy lays out the two main reasons West Indies need to win the WT20.

Stats provided by Bharat Seervi

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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