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ANALYSIS: Two-time title holders West Indies defeated by their average age

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By Avinash Kr Atish

New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) It is often believed that reputation in T20 cricket is an extra baggage and the West Indies cricket team, full of veteran superstars, proved that with their ordinary performance in the ongoing T20 World Cup in the UAE.

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Defending champions West Indies started the tournament as one of the title contenders but they failed to reach the semifinals with just one win and four losses in the Super 12 phase, bringing an end to the historic era of T20 cricket.

An ageing West Indies team comprising Chris Gayle (42 years), Dwayne Bravo (38), Ravi Rampaul (37), Andre Russell (33), Andre Fletcher (33) and Lendl Simmons (36) led by an experience campaigner like Kieron Pollard (34) failed to deliver in all three departments of the game and disappointed their fans with lacklustre performance.

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And West Indies’ loss to Australia in their final game of the T20 World Cup also meant that they would have to take the additional qualifying route in order to make it to the Super 12 for the next edition of the T20 World Cup in 2022.

The turnaround time between the two World Cups is minimal and Cricket West Indies (CWI) will have to take some harsh calls to become contenders for the title again.

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Things West Indies can do to revive their T20 cricket fortunes:

Unearthing New Talent:

After a poor outing, West Indies captain Kieron Pollard admitted that his team wasn’t good enough in their campaign at the T20 World Cup. He added that West Indies will have to have a re-look at their approach towards playing T20I again.

“I think overall (it) has been a disappointing campaign. The batting has lived up to expectations, bowling has been decent. We could have done better with the fielding as well. Overall we weren’t good enough. Obviously, we need to look at the way we play T20 cricket again. Our team is set up for power hitters to do a lot of damage but we weren’t able to do that,” said Pollard in the post-match presentation ceremony after West Indies lost to Australia by eight wickets in their last match of the tournament.

However, Pollard’s comment after the 20-run defeat against Sri Lanka on Thursday was an eye-opener for cricket administrators in the Caribbean.

The attacking batsman asked Cricket West Indies (CWI) to start another tournament, other than the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), in order to unearth “new talents” after bowing out of the race for a semifinal berth.

“One of the things for us that we need to do, especially in the Caribbean, is we need to have another tournament other than CPL (Caribbean Premier League), where we can unearth new talents,” said Pollard.

The 34-year Pollard, who himself was plagued by poor form in the tournament, highlighted that with little or no infusion of new talent, the same players were being “recycled” time and again.

“When we had the Caribbean T20, that was an opportunity for people to bring new talents from different parts of the Caribbean and we are able to have a sort of nucleus for this last generation also but with the inception since CPL come in, yes, it’s a franchise-base system, but we have only the opportunity to sort of recycle the same players over and over and over again.

“So it’s something we need to look at but there are some cricketers and a lot of young cricketers looking forward to playing and contributing to the West Indies cricket. It’s something for me personally I’m excited about and it’s the end of a generation but there’s a lot of conversations that need to take place of how you’re going to make a transformation from the club cricket, or even CPL into international cricket because there’s a big step up,” said Pollard.

“I think in between there, what we need is another tournament. If you look around the world, there are other teams, and for us I’m looking forward to it and I’m very, very excited. Hopefully we can find the right mix of these young guys coming up and making us step up and hopefully come in and contributing to the success in West Indies cricket,” he added.

Looking beyond past glory:

Over the years, it has been proven that Twenty 20 cricket is primarily a young person’s game. The youth brings fearlessness, exuberance and flamboyance, which are often considered as key to success in T20 cricket. Sure, there is a place for experience as well but those are exceptions. And, more importantly, there should be a fine balance between youth and experience in any T20 team.

Bravo has already played his last international game and the likes of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Andre Fletcher and Lendl Simmons have passed their prime, and Cricket West Indies (CWI) must look beyond them now.

Because, West Indies are now in a position where they have no option but to invest in youngsters for bright future in T20 cricket.

Backing youngsters:

Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer, the two left-handed batsmen were the standout performers for West Indies at the ongoing T20 World Cup. Pooran is 25, the vice-captain and clearly not just one for the future but also the one expected to take over as leader from Pollard, maybe as early as before the next World Cup in Australia. Hetymer is a year younger and plays aggressive cricket in the middle overs.

Experts and critics often say that over-aggression brings inconsistency and it’s been an issue with both Pooran and Hetmyer in recent times. But, West Indies cricket needs to back them because on their given day, both are proven match-winners.

The likes of Sherfane Rutherford, Chandrapaul Hemraj, Rahkeem Cornwall and Akeal Hosein are also young exciting talent and they are likely to gain experience and more opportunities for West Indies over the next 12 months.

Play as a collective unit:

Most of the West Indies players play franchise cricket all over the world and they are very impactful contributors for their sides. However, when the same T20 stars play for West Indies, they are not able to perform as a collective unit.

In the ongoing World Cup, West Indies had all the big names of T20 cricket. On paper, they were a lethal side but it didn’t produce the desired results as they didn’t execute their plans in unison.

For next year’s World Cup, the Caribbean team needs to bring all the talented players and make them play together for longer period of time. Individuals understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses when they spend a considerable amount of time together on the playground and in dressing rooms.

Spending time together also helps in developing team culture and hunger to succeed as a unit, which the West Indies badly need at this hour.

–IANS

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