West Indies v Sri Lanka – ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021
There is no doubt the West Indies are one of the scariest opposition to face in any T20 game.
Tests? Maybe not so much. ODIs? No one can hit all 300 balls in an innings for sixers, surely. ODIs are a complicated form of the game, and that necessitates that batters use different gears for different stages of the game.
But T20s? Where you can throw the bat at every single ball when even a mistimed top edge is likely to go for a six? That is exactly where the Windies excel.
The West Indies has not one finisher but five of the best in the business – Shimron Hetmeyer, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Jason Holder and Dwayne Bravo. The latter often comes down as low as No.9, making the West Indies a scary team to face. And in a knockout style tournament where they can give their all every game instead of pacing themselves? God save the opposition bowlers, right?
West Indies vs Sri Lanka – ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021
This has always been a problem of plenty with the West Indies. What makes them the scariest team to face is also what also makes them a rather tame opposition to come up against.
One never knows which Windies team could show up on any given day: one that tonks the ball out of the park or one that swings and misses most deliveries, one that scores 200+ scores like it is the most obvious thing in the world, or one that gets all out for less than a 100 by going for every ball from the get-go.
Because in all the years since the advent of T20 cricket, the West Indies have not altered their approach to the game. They try to hit the ball – every ball. And whether they sky the ball to long on’s cupped hands or smash it over extra cover is immaterial. The next batter coming in does the same. And the next. And the next.
It is, after all, the West Indies way.
And to be honest, that is not a bad approach in the most volatile and unpredictable format of game. England, who are currently the most vicious T20 international side in the world and have been for quite some time, have modelled themselves on that theme. Hitters who can accelerate at will and are not afraid to go for every ball stack their line-up too.
The key difference between them and the West Indies is what happens when that approach doesn’t work.
England and West Indies – two explosive batting line-ups with contrasting approaches to the game
England vs Sri Lanka – ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021
England have the flexibility to change their game plan, as evidenced by their performance against Sri Lanka in their recent T20 World Cup game. What happened as soon as they slipped to 35-3 in six overs on a tricky Sharjah pitch?
Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan immediately dropped anchor, exchanged singles and doubles till they consolidated their position. They then resumed their usual big hitting. That is what makes a champion side. The willingness to take risks but at the same time recognising when to risk and when not to.
In contrast, what did the West Windies batters do against the very same Sri Lanka? Between the 12th over and the 17th overs, they lost five of their premium batters – Nicholas Pooran and four of the above mentioned ‘finishers’.
Four wickets fell in as many consecutive overs. Twelve runs shared between the four of the felled batter, all while going for the biggest swings they could manage. In the process, they either missed or sent the ball high into the night sky into the hands of a fielder for a catch.
It did not help that the West Windies players had been woefully out of form coming into the tournament. Pollard, Bravo and Russel had mediocre IPL campaigns that were subpar by their staggering standards and subpar even by the usual standards. Pooran and Gayle were virtually non-existent, while Lewis fared just a tad better.
Only Hetmeyer, Sunil Narine and Jason Holder had decent tournaments; two of them were not even been picked in the West Indies’ 15-man squad at the World Cup. It was a good thing Holder entered the fray at the last minute, thanks to an injury to Fabian Allen.
West Indies were always coming into the tournament as far from favourites. But as the perennial dark horses, they could never be discounted because of their explosive reputation. But live up to their reputation, they did not.
One need not look far to see the core issues for the West Windies. RIght at the top of the order is Chris Gayle, Universe Boss and 42 years of age. His average in the last four years has not crossed 25. In 2021, for the national team, he has played 20 matches striking at 110 and averaging only 15. But once he was picked in the squad, he was an automatic shoo-in in the playing XI.
It is not his fault that he made himself available for selection. I, myself am available for selection by Team India, but if they selected me, it would be the selectors who ought to be rightly blamed. Similarly, it is the WICB that should be blamed for picking up Gayle. If Gayle was in the squad but not playing, questions would have arisen as to what he could have done.
So just by picking him, they made things more difficult for the team. One simply does not drop Chris Gayle.
West Indies vs Sri Lanka – ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021
The collective failure of the rest of the West Indies team did not make things any easier.
One or two knocks by Russel or Pollard could have changed their fortunes. But until the Windies change their game style, this will how they will be: when they win, they will take the world by storm with their all-in approach. And when they don’t, it will look like they were never in the game, leaving one wondering what could have been if only a few of their players had turned up.
But chances are, the West Indies are never going to change, even as this Golden generation bows out with one last outing. They have swashbuckling talent to build their team around, in the form of Pooranm Hetmeyer and Akeal Hosein, but the West Indies way will be the West Indies way.
When they come good, they come really, really good. But when they don’t… they really, really don’t.
Click here to see who has taken the highest wickets in T20 World Cup 2021.