Guest contributor Roneil Walcott offers the first of a two-part look into his own dream West Indies Team, as Wired868 continues its look ahead to the T20 Cricket World Cup:
Remember the name! What a moment! What a team!
The West Indies have done it again. They have defended their title and have won the T20 World Cup for the third time. Kieron Pollard and company, take a bow!
Don’t mind me, I’m just practising my best Ian Bishop impression for when the WI, boldly led by skipper Pollard, lift the T20 World Cup for the second time in succession this coming November.
I know what you’re thinking. Where’s my objectivity?
But permit me, if you will, to dream a little.
Since Carlos Brathwaite’s miraculous six-hitting barrage against Ben Stokes’ England sealed an unlikely T20 World Cup triumph for the WI in 2016, it’s fair to say that fans of cricket in the region have had to endure a quite tumultuous time. On a good day, the West Indies look like world-beaters.
However, on an off-day, WI can look like an outright embarrassment. Unfortunately for us in the region, it is the latter which happens more often than not. In my opinion, that has not prevented us from believing every time we get one of those brilliant flash-in-the-pan performances that the team is ‘turning the corner’ .
A wise man once told me that, for me to stomach WI cricket as a die-hard supporter, my heart and my drink must both be strong like Samson. I won’t discuss my drink of choice here but I will say that I’ve never really been a harden fellah and since the first day he made it, I have heeded David Michael Rudder’s call to Rally Round the West Indies—win, lose or draw!
Terrence Deyalsingh, the good minister of health, may have got more sympathy recently if he had said that Rally Round the West Indies was an extract from our national anthem. Instead, he once again became the laughing stock of social media.
Surely, he pulled aside and wept. But I digress…
Nobody laughs at the WI white ball captain, though. And after the regional team’s disappointing 2-0 T20I series defeat versus New Zealand back in November 2020, he pulled no punches.
“We don’t want to feel like laughing stocks in the dressing room. We have an opportunity now to think about it and come back. Next year is very crucial with the World Cup coming up. So if players don’t show that attitude, they may get the boot,” Pollard said, sending a clear message and a stern warning to the promising—but not yet established—players in the WI set-up.
He can’t help it; he is a serial winner. The Trinidad and Tobago all-rounder copped his 15th T20 title last year when his Mumbai Indians team won yet another IPL tournament. In charge of Barbados Tridents, Trinbago Knight Riders and—when given the opportunity—Mumbai, he has shown how shrewd he can be as a leader.
He is a captain who leads by example and isn’t afraid of trying unconventional tactics to seek to get an edge on the competition as well. These methods aren’t always endorsed by the cricket purists at home and abroad but I don’t think Pollard cares one jot about that. For him, it’s all about the end goal.
And in the immediate future, the goal for Pollard, coach Phil Simmons and the WI is winning the next T20 World Cup. In that regard, it’s no real surprise that Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle and Andre Russell are once again fixtures in the T20 set-up.
What the West Indies T20 team possesses is something I think many teams in the world cannot match: vast experience in pressure situations. Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and the Jamaican pair of Andre ‘Dre Russ’ Russell and Christopher ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle were all present in the WI team which won the T20 World Cup in 2012.
Of the Fab Four, Pollard was the only player who was not involved in India in 2016 when the Calypso Kings repeated as champions.
In the aforementioned quartet, coach Simmons has four match-winners at his disposal, four players we would consider sure picks. But questions have recently been raised about the selection of the 41-year-old Gayle.
The hard-hitting left-hander will be 42 years young by the time the T20 World Cup bowls off in the UAE and Oman in mid-October and, he announced, after reaching the 14,000-run landmark in his T20 career during the recent series versus Australia, he isn’t going a place!
“The onus is on me to call the shot and say I’ve had enough,” a beaming Gayle said after hitting a 38-ball-67 in the third T20I versus the Aussies. “But still plenty in the tank for now.”
If Still-have-Plenty-in-the-Tank were a person, his name would be DJ Bravo. The evergreen 37-year-old continues to be a gift that gives on giving, still able to bamboozle batsmen with his slower balls and subtle variations.
With some 530 T20 wickets to his name, Bravo was in champion form in the five-match series versus the Proteas, taking a total of ten wickets and hauling in a career-best 4 for 19 in the 4th T20I for good measure.
Staying true to his mandate to mentor young quicks in the region, Bravo has seemingly made a near clone in Vincentian left-armer Obed McCoy, who was outstanding in both the Australia and South Africa series.
Now to Mr Dre Russ!
It’s astonishing that Andre Russell has only played a solitary Test match for WI. Perhaps, even more mind-boggling is the fact that the maverick Jamaican only got his maiden T20I half-century a few weeks ago at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St Lucia.
Nevertheless, despite coping with recurrent knee injuries throughout his career and serving a one-year ban in 2017 for flouting the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) ‘whereabouts’ policy, Russell has forged quite a career for himself in the shortest format of the game; he is arguably the most destructive T20 player in world cricket.
His teammates Gayle and Pollard may each have a different view.
In Russell, WI have a lethal weapon that can single-handedly take games away from the opposition with both bat and ball. And although he can still be an asset in the field, his countryman Fabian Allen has undoubtedly raised the bar in the fielding department over the past few years and is among the sharpest in the world as we speak. In fact, Allen is the total all-round package.
I think he has already secured his seat on the plane to the UAE and Oman.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE for Part Two of Roneil Walcott’s dream team, as he names his final XI, substitutes and reserves, and explains the key role to be played by Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer.