By Garfield Robinson
The West Indies will play their opening game in the T20 World Cup on Saturday against Australia and the cricketing world will be looking on with interest. Their long suffering fans have felt, for a long time, that their once all-conquering side has too long languished in the nether regions of the world cricket rankings. And while many may feel that the T20 game is not the best test of character and cricketing ability, victory in this competition will strengthen their belief that the West Indies are finally fighting their way up from the bottom.
The T20 variety is cricket’s briefest form. Basically, it involves the batsmen hitting the ball as far and as often as possible, and the bowlers trying to limit the instances of them doing so. And so, generally speaking, the team withthe most capacity in the big-hitting department should win the most games. That is what the West Indies has, and that, more than any other quality they posses, is what makes them a formidable proposition in this year’s T20 World Cup.
Not that bowlers are surplus to requirements: the exploits of the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lasith Malinga in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has shown that bowlers can deliver devastating blows of their own. But a bowler is limited to four overs and so need to hit their strides early, while there are no limitations on the willow wielders.
Without doubt, the world’s most destructive batsman is the West Indies opener, Chris Gayle. As the game’s foremost T20 gun-for-hire,he has travelled widely, offering his six hitting services to the highest bidder.
And he hardly ever disappoints. In this year’s IPL, for example, he scored the most runs at the highest average and struck a staggering 59 sixes.The batsman with the second highest number of sixes had only 20.
The West Indies would be dangerous enough with Gayle as their only big hitter, but he is far from being alone in that category. Batting lower down the order,Kieron Pollard, though less dependable, has showed he is capable of wreaking as much mayhem as the tall Jamaican; while not far behind in explosiveness are Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith and captain Darren Sammy. So incendiary are the men from the Caribbean thatthey should be able to raze all before them if they manage some kind of batting consistency.
And then they have Sunil Narine. Offered a hefty USD700, 000 contract by the Kolkata Knight Riders, Narine cut a wide swathe through the 2012 edition of the IPL. At the end of the competition his side gained its first hold on the IPL title, with him winning the DLF Golden Player of the Season award. His 5.47 economy rate made him the thriftiest bowler on show, and performances like his 5 for 19 against Kings XI Punjab showed his capacity to dismember batting line-ups. Every opponent has found him difficult in this shortened form of the game and things should be no different in Sri Lanka, especially if there is turn available.
Also in their favour is the fact that sub-continent pitches are somewhat similar to those in the Caribbean. With the surfaces expected to be slow and affordinglittle assistance to the seamers, the West Indies batsmen should be able to strike the ball with confidence. And so if it comes down to the batting unit capable of the most fireworks, then the West Indies should occupy pole position.
Yet nothing is guaranteed in cricket, and T20 is its shortest and most unforgiving form. In a recent interview Marlon Samuels stated that two mistakes were enough to deny victory to even the best T20 side. He may be allowing for one mistake too many.