Criticism is frequently made of legitimately great batsmen from time to time that the one thing lacking in his game is that he hasn’t made/doesn’t make the really big scores – or words to that effect.
You can’t hate the West Indies.
Best known for their golden days during the 1970s and 1980s and their modern T20 beasts, they recently completed an epic backs-to-the-wall Test series win in Bangladesh.
However, they’re still lacking in white-ball cricket – a serious omission with back-to-back T20 World Cups years coming up.
The West Indies recently announced their squad for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka. The T20 squad included Chris Gayle for the first time in almost two years and the 39-year-old Fidel Edwards, who last played international cricket in 2012.
It hasn’t been said explicitly, but there’s a feeling the West Indies want to fully exploit their T20 A-grade stars in time for the World Cup. This includes the likes of Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Evin Lewis et cetera.
Don’t get me wrong, those are some elite players, but it’s not 2014 anymore. The West Indies need to look past some of those players.
Ahead of the 2019 ODI World Cup the West Indies followed a similar approach. Chris Gayle found superb form at home against England and Andre Russell was coming off an MVP performance in the IPL. Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard were named on the reserve players list. Sunil Narine even said that the board asked him to play but that he was nursing an injury.
But the stars didn’t perform consistently, and the West Indies returned only two wins in the tournament and just one after their emphatic opening win against Pakistan. Clearly the strategy of leaning on the old guard led to disappointment.
After the World Cup the side felt they needed change, and this came in the form of giving Kieron Pollard a comeback as captain in the white-ball format. Dwayne Bravo has also since come out of international retirement, and stars like Gayle, Narine, Russell, Carlos Brathwaite have been in and out of the team.
I stress again that these players are decent quality, but why should the West Indies keep relying on them in big moments when they are much more interested in making money by playing T20 tournaments around the world? This idea was best exemplified in November when West Indies coach Phil Simmons was unaware that Andre Russell was taking part in the Sri Lankan Premier League and had declined to tour with the national team in New Zealand.
These big names have done a lot for the West Indies, but they could’ve had even more substantial international careers had they shown proper dedication instead of showing up only when there’s a World Cup around the corner. Yes, they won the West Indies two T20 World Cups, but they have also been a big part of the team’s decline in the last several years.
If they can stay committed, that’s great, but if not, they don’t deserve so many recalls.
In the recent tour of Bangladesh up to 12 players both young and old declined to take part due to fears around COVID-19 – though one wonders whether those same fears would’ve prevailed had it been the IPL calling.
This led to a great opportunity for some youngsters and domestically proven players to play, including Kyle Mayers, Nkrumah Bonner and Joshua Da Silva. The ODIs were poor, but the Test series was very promising, including that eye-catching 395-run chase in the first match. It will be very interesting to see if the West Indies retain this new core for their next Test series.
Contrasting the differences between this tour of Bangladesh and other recent international series, it is very important the West Indies find the perfect blend of experienced stars and new talent to succeed. The main goal should be playing guys who are committed to West Indies cricket and reward players who have succeeded domestically.
World cricket needs a strong West Indies side. This is the way to get it.