With West Indies rarely fielding a full-strength side in bilateral T20Is, it can be tough to figure out what their best side is in the format. Let’s take a look at what their first-choice T20I XI might look like, and what chances they stand during the T20 World Cup.
Defending champions West Indies will begin their T20 World Cup campaign against South Africa on October 26. The squad features only five members from their successful 2016 campaign, but it isn’t short of experience, game time or star power. Kieron Pollard, one of the players who pulled out of the 2016 World T20, is leading the side, and his deputy is the highly-rated keeper-batter Nicholas Pooran.
Having already won two global T20 events, West Indies have one of the most fearsome T20 sides in the world, where even their reserves have rendered stupendous one-man shows in recent times, such as Jason Holder’s 3-19 and 29-ball 47 on a sticky wicket in Sharjah against Punjab Kings on September 25.
It seems the West Indies will be in with a problem of plenty during the T20 World Cup with respect to the players they can pick from their squad. We try to select the XI which can help West Indies lift the T20 World Cup.
West Indies first-choice T20 XI
Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis
Evin Lewis will play the role of the crusher at the top, with a strike-rate of 158.03 in the format. His strike-rate in the powerplay this IPL has been 174.02, and in his present form he can score runs at a brisk pace irrespective of whether the game takes place on slow surfaces or a fast-paced pitches.
Andre Fletcher and Lendl Simmons will vie to partner. While Fletcher doesn’t have the best of strike-rates as a batter, his experience as a top-order player can help Lewis to get off to a blistering start while he holds one end. Also, Fletcher can himself go for the shots, should the need arise, or play the role of someone who bats through the innings. He played a good knock of 64-ball 84 in the last World T20 against Sri Lanka to chase down a small target on a slow wicket, an innings which showcased his strengths. At the same time, earlier this year he made a quick-fire 30 to help West Indies get off to a good start in a chase of 161.
However, Simmons has big-tournament experience, and played a crucial role in their 2016 title win, with a match-winning knock in the semi-final. He’s also been in good national form, smashing 72 against Australia recently, so he just gets the nod.
Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, and Shimron Hetmyer
Chris Gayle comes in at No.3 position. While adept at opening the innings as well, in recent years, Gayle takes more time than usual to get going. However, once in he can unleash unimaginable destruction, which makes him a match-winner even at 42. Nicholas Pooran, the vice-captain, is one of the cleanest hitters of the ball in the limited overs game.
After a lean patch in the first half of the IPL, where he couldn’t buy a run, he returned with style in the CPL, scoring 263 runs at a whopping strike-rate of 163.35. At five, we have Shimron Hetmyer, who is a batter in a similar mould, as his strike-rate of 167.61 in IPL 2021 testifies. The presence of these two in the middle ensures that the West Indies can continue hunting for quick runs, even if the top-order is unable to get off to a brisk start.
Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, and Dwayne Bravo
The skipper Pollard will come in at 6, with the destructive Russell and ever-effective Dwayne Bravo playing in at 7 and 8. This ensures that there will be no let-up from the lower order, with some big-hitting possible towards the death overs. Bravo’s death strike-rate in T20s is 172.98, for Andre Russell it is 204.07, and for the captain it is 199.04.
This means that even if everything else fails, the West Indies have batters who can turn the game around by smashing quick-fire cameos.
While Russell’s bowling might be hampered by his fitness issues, the trio have 1,189 wickets between them in the format. At their best, they can easily cover eight to ten overs for the Men in Maroon. Someone like Bravo, with 280 wickets in the death overs, can prove to be particularly lethal towards the end of an innings, and has experienced a resurgence of late.
Roston Chase, Hayden Walsh Jr., and Ravi Rampaul
Hayden Walsh Jr’s leg-spin will come of great use in the T20 World Cup, especially if the wickets turn out to be lower and slower as some have expected. He showed his skills against Australia earlier this year, when he strangled their chase of 146 with his 3-23. He is an exceptional fielder, and no mug with the bat either.
Roston Chase is the new entrant into the West Indies T20 side. Chase has been placed as a ‘bowler’ in this line-up, and with good reason. He starred with the ball in the CPL 2021, getting 10 wickets at an economy of 6.92. Moreover, he claimed seven of these wickets in the powerplay overs. His overall economy rate in the powerplay overs is 6.67, which means it is very likely that the experienced batter can open the bowling for the West Indies.
Of course, he is an astute batter as well, being the highest run-scorer in the CPL 2021. He has been assigned the lower-order role only because of the luxuries the West Indies have at the top and middle of their batting line-up. Should the need arise in case of a collapse, when there is a need of a batter who can bat through the innings, or during a tricky chase, Chase can always be promoted directly to a number three or four spot in this very flexible batting line-up.
Ravi Rampaul is the returning star for the West Indies bowling line-up, and has been given preference over Obed McCoy and Oshane Thomas in this XI. His selection is backed by his recent form, being the highest wicket-taker in the CPL with 19 wickets at 16.21, the fact that medium pacers with ability to change their pace have found some success in the UAE leg of IPL, and the massive 19-year international experience he brings to the side. This is especially harsh on McCoy, who has claimed 18 wickets at an economy around seven in his last three series, but Rampaul just gets the nod.
Fabien Allen is the other bowler to miss out on selection.
West Indies first-choice T20 XI – the line-up
Nicholas Pooran (wk)
Kieron Pollard (c)
Hayden Walsh Jr.
Chances at the T20 World Cup
The very composition of the West Indies squad, makes them one of the strongest sides for the World Cup. They have nearly got it all, from spin-bowling all-rounders to a blistering lower-middle order. However, fitness issues to key players, like Andre Russell, can act as concerns for the side. Another issue can be at the top, where Fletcher, Gayle, or even Simmons can take some time to get going.
They also lack someone like Narine, who could have been tough to read in these situations. Having said all of that, the big muscle of the West Indies batting, the tact of the senior West Indies players, and the massive experience they have in this format should help them render another strong performance this edition of the tournament.
Can they win it again?
They are definitely in with a great chance to make it a third time, and should at least make the knockouts of the tournament.
*All stats up-to-date till October 6, 2021
**Data is from games where ball-to-ball update was available