T20 World Cup: Windies eye winning start after underwhelming build-up
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CMC):
Erratic West Indies will hope to shake off widespread criticism of squad selection, bubble fatigue of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and lethargy caused by disappointing warm-up results when they clash with England on today’s opening day of the Twenty20 World Cup in a repeat of the thrilling 2016 final.
The Caribbean side has marched from one biosecure bubble to another over the last four months, playing 14 T20 Internationals against three different sides at home before disbanding to allow players to feature in the Caribbean Premier League and the Indian Premier League.
To further complicate matters, the 15-man squad became the centre of raging debate due to the inclusion of the ageing duo of Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul and the omission of the likes of Sherfane Rutherford, Jason Holder, and Romario Shepherd.
And on-field attempts to change the narrative failed when the reigning champions suffered emphatic defeats to Pakistan and Afghanistan in official warm-ups earlier this week.
However, captain Kieron Pollard said that despite the disappointing sequence of events, squad morale was high, and players were anxious to prove their worth in the October 23 to November 14 showpiece here.
West Indies captain Kieron Pollard believes that the squad is confident of executing despite recent hiccups.
“I think the mood is upbeat. Yes, we accept that the two warm-up games would not have gone how we wanted in terms of scoring the amount of runs and the sort of intent that we’re looking for,” Pollard told an online media conference yesterday.
“But be that as it may, I think before the [guys from the IPL final] joined the camp, we had a good couple days of good, intense sessions, with guys understanding roles and responsibilities.
“We get a sense that guys are up for it. The guys are just looking forward to starting this tournament. And we accept we didn’t do well in the warm-up games, but be that as it may, we move on from that and look forward to tomorrow.”
West Indies have found themselves in a virtual group of death in Group 1, where they will take on the likes of Australia, South Africa, and England, with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka also adding to that difficulty by advancing from the just concluded pre-tournament qualifiers.
In the Caribbean this year, the Kieron Pollard-led unit thrashed a weakened Australia 4-1 and beat Sri Lanka 2-1 earlier in March but lost 3-2 to South Africa.
Pollard said that West Indies would be focusing on execution and not necessarily their opponents as they chased a spot in the final four.
“I don’t want to pre-empt anything. I just want that every time we step on the cricket field, we play a good game of cricket,” he explained.
“This is sport, so we’re going to win, and we’re going to lose. Obviously, every time we step on to that field we’re looking to win matches, so for us, it would be unprecedented if we go all the way through not losing [a game].
“Having said that, I don’t want to pre-empt stuff [by talking about] how many games we actually need to win to get through the group. I think it is important that we plan each and every time and we look to execute our plans and, hopefully, the results sort of take care of themselves.”
He continued: “Our biggest concern is just trying to start the tournament. The guys are anxious. The guys have been here a while, and we’re looking forward to starting the tournament.
“I don’t want to get into the specifics of concerns. Different persons have different problems at different times, but I think as a team, we’re pretty confident.
“We’re confident our batting can do the job, we’re confident our bowling can do the job, and we’re very, very confident in the bunch that we have in terms of the camaraderie and playing some exciting, entertaining cricket.”
Slow bowling has proven the perpetual bane of West Indies batsmen and with the power-hitting side notorious for their lack of strike rotation in the middle overs, the problem has become too difficult to ignore.
But Pollard said that while a great deal of work had been done to address the matter, West Indies would not be abandoning their trademark power game.
“In terms of spin, it’s just a matter of backing your strengths, backing your ability, understanding the situation, knowing when we need to rotate strike, knowing when we need to use our power-hitting abilities – again, playing to our strengths if we have to show that intent,” he pointed out.
“I think for us it is a mindset. The guys have worked tirelessly. They’ve worked really hard in the nets to try to understand the situation and what is really needed.
“When that bell rings, let’s see if we can put it into practice, but we’re really, really confident as a bunch and as a team, and we believe in each and every individual, and we’ve had good chats as to what we want to accomplish.”
WEST INDIES – Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Akeal Hosein, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr
ENGLAND – Eoin Morgan (captain), Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.