T20WC24: Can Powell’s WI have new focus—will home advantage count?

Old enough to have been around when Kapil Dev ran halfway across Lord’s to pouch Viv Richards’ skier, I am scarred. Over four decades after that 1983 sinking of the West Indies’ Titanic, I remain a sceptic, at best a conservative believer in West Indies’ World Cup prowess.

In hindsight, the record suggests it has been the right choice—the total of WI’s limited-overs World Cup wins remains at two.

West Indies captain Clive Lloyd (centre) lifts the 1979 Cricket World Cup trophy while his teammates celebrate at Lord’s in London.

Also at two is the total of T20 World Cup wins. Temporarily, say the out-and-out unconditional believers, whose numbers grew massively after 2016. That was when, with his fourth attempt, Carlos Brathwaite unexpectedly put an Englishman on the moon—and every West Indian supporter over it!

With those four sixes, Brathwaite—who does not remember the name?—unwontedly liberated the West Indian support. And, disastrously in my view, the West Indian white-ball leadership.

“We are a six-hitting team.”

When Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran and Phil Simmons were at the helm of West Indies T20 cricket, those five words were seared into our brains. Seemingly  flushed out of our veins was the icy coolness needed to consistently secure short-format victories.

West Indies’ Carlos Brathwaite (right) and teammate Marlon Samuels celebrate after victory in the World T20 cricket final against England at The Eden Gardens Stadium in Kolkata on 3 April 2016.
Copyright: AFP 2016/ Dibyangshu Sarkar

Not forever, it seems.

Last Sunday at Sabina Park, an iteration of Rovman Powell’s World Cup 2024 squad—with 2016 skipper Daren Sammy as coach and Brandon King in the captain’s role—whipped Rassie van der Dussen’s South Africa for the third consecutive time.

I applauded lustily. Not because the margins were especially comfortable. Or because of the whitewash. Or because the win moved West Indies to fourth place in the T20 rankings.

What encouraged me and raised my spirits was what I heard in the post-match interviews.

Stand-in West Indies captain Brandon King (left) and Gudakesh Motie celebrate their 3-0 T20 series sweep of South Africa at Sabina Park on 26 May 2024.
Photo: CWI Media

The stand-in skipper and his stand-in deputy both spoke to the media. No empty triumphalism. None of the mindless sloganeering to which we have become used. Neither from one or the other.

Truth be told, Game 3 Man-of-the-Match Johnson Charles offered little beyond hollow formulaic responses, but he’s not part of the leadership. If he’s going to let his bat do the talking to the tune of 69 off 26 balls, that’s more than good enough.

Speaking after the first game, which his team won by a comfortable 20-run margin, King said something we have rarely heard from recent West Indian white-ball captains.

West Indies batsmen run between the wicket during their T20I contest against South Africa at Sabina Park on 26 May 2024.
Photo: CWI Media

Responding to the question of whether his team had deliberately set out “to go at ten or 11 in the powerplay,” the skipper offered a more nuanced view.

“If the conditions were different,” he declared, “we might have been a little less aggressive at the start.”

“It’s really the conditions,” he added, “that dictate how you play to win games.”

Sweet music to this conservative West Indian’s ears.

West Indies cricketers celebrate their 3-0 T20I sweep of South Africa at Sabina Park on 26 May 2024.
Photo: CWI Media

After Game Two, which the free-scoring home team won by 16 runs, a confident-sounding surrogate vice-captain Roston Chase rejected a reporter’s suggestion that this squad is just beginning to perform well.

“For the past two or three years,” he responded, “the T20 team has been playing great cricket. We have only lost one series so far since I have been with this team so I don’t think it is a matter of us just coming together as a team.”

If King and Chase are on the mark, Sammy’s troops—recently strengthened, in my view, by Obed McCoy’s replacement of the injured Jason Holder—may well give a good account of themselves this time around.

West Indies pacer Obed McCoy in action against South Africa during T20I action at Sabina Park on 26 May 2024.
Photo: CWI Media

They can hardly fail to emerge from a Group C featuring stellar performers New Zealand along with Papua New Guinea, Uganda and Afghanistan, even if the last named will reportedly have the redoubtable Dwayne Bravo in charge of their bowlers.

Interestingly, defending champions England, the only other team with two titles, have also secured the services of former WI skipper Pollard as a “consultant”.

Coincidence? Might that be why Jos Buttler’s men plan to, according to a Nick Hoult 21 May Telegraph article, “put their faith in their six-hitters to lift them out of their white-ball rut”?

England star batsman Jos Buttler on the go.

“A top five of Phil Salt, Jos Buttler, Will Jacks, Jonny Bairstow and Harry Brook,” Hoult observes, “certainly have the firepower to win any slugfest and high-scoring games on small West Indian grounds are expected to be the norm next month.”

Talk of firepower, slugfests and high-scoring games invites talk about India, not for nothing currently the top-ranked T20 side.

In Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav and the up-and-coming Yashasvi Jaiswal, they boast a quartet of highly talented top-order batsmen, who have used the six-week IPL to find their best form.

Gifted 22-year-old India batsman Yashasvi Jaiswal.

Complementing them with the ball are the vastly experienced Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.

It will be no easy task to stop that juggernaut from steamrolling to a second ICC T20 title.

Australia, ranked #2, arguably boast more big T20 names than any other team in this tournament. Of the 2023 side, only Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne failed to make the cut.

Australia cricketers celebrate lifting the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup trophy.
Photo: ICC

So, having conceded the T20 title to unloved arch-rivals England after winning both the 50-over ODI World Cup and the World Test Championship, Mitchell Marsh’s troops have an axe to grind.

Can Powell’s Caribbean Cavaliers get enough wind in their sails to lead the current world leaders home?

The record shows a mere 19 wins in 39 T20 World Cup games, an unimpressive 51.3%—the lowest of all the top eight sides.

West Indies spinner Akeal Hosein (centre) is congratulated by captain Rovman Powell (left) and teammate Romario Shepherd (right) during a T20I contest.
Photo: CWI Media

Still conservative, I would have been willing to respond probably if Pollard, Bravo, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine and Marlon Samuels were in the squad from which the final 11’s will come.

But, of the old guard, there’s only Andre Russell, who was not a minor contributor to the Kolkata Knight Riders’ splendid capture of the 2024 IPL title.

And Sammy, who has been to the mountaintop and feels the ample weight of Caribbean hopes and expectations on his broad shoulders.

West Indies’ captain Darren Sammy poses with the World T20 cricket trophy in Kolkata on 4 April 2016.
Copyright: AFP 2016/ Dibyangshu Sarkar

He knows as well as the next man that cricket matches are played not on paper but on pitches. And that real home advantage involves not just familiarity with the playing conditions but widespread public support for the way we play.

So, I’m going with a conservative possibly. And I’m counting on coach Sammy and captain Powell to be as level-headed as were King and Chase in the South Africa series.

Let’s leave the pie in the sky, keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and our gaze firmly fixed on the ball, whether at the crease or in the field.

West Indies T20I captain Rovman Powell.
Photo: CWI Media

Until the cows come home. For a third time.

More from Wired868
Dear Editor: West Indies struggling with inferiority sickness against England

“[…] Mikyle Louis, you must bat deep into the innings; always go back to square one after a restart. Alick Read more

Early Bird: Looking back at T20WC24; where will Pooran be for 2026 tournament?

There can be no doubt that eventual winners India deserved to have the lion’s share of the places on the Read more

T20WC24: Kohli, Suryakumar, Proteas give inspired India 2nd T20 title

They choked! Again! At the last hurdle, just the wrong time! At just the right time, struggling star batsman Virat Read more

Vaneisa: T20WC24 thrills, revived WI interests—but Big Three concerns linger

Both of the semi-final matches in this T20 World Cup were demolitions. The match between Afghanistan and South Africa was Read more

T20WC24: India avenge 2022 England defeat; set up final clash of unbeaten teams

A measured third-wicket partnership of 73 between skipper Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav put India in the driver’s seat in Read more

T20WC24: Shamsi, Jansen demolish Afghanistan; South Africa coast into first final

Riding high after qualifying for their first ever World Cup semi-final, Afghanistan were yesterday brought very low—56 all out—by South Read more

Check Also

Dear Editor: West Indies struggling with inferiority sickness against England

“[…] Mikyle Louis, you must bat deep into the innings; always go back to square …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.