West Indies will be looking to defend the crown that they won in ICC World T20 2014 © Getty Images
West Indies will be looking to defend the World T20 crown that they won in 2012 © Getty Images

 

By R Vishal

 

The packed Colombo crowd was silenced by flamboyance and the indomitable self-belief that had once epitomised the men from the Caribbean Isles with the ‘Gagnam Style’ played in the blaring speakers all night long. It wouldn’t have been an exaggeration to suggest that the Calypso era was in reincarnation when West Indies clinched the ICC World T20 2012.

 

During the course of the tournament, West Indies had lived up their billing as pre-tournament favourites and went onto entertain everyone with their panache and won the cup. It firmly laid down the template  in Twenty20 (T20) leagues everywhere to have a West Indian player in its ranks.

 

Since the victory, the setup has consolidated its position as the team to beat, while their form in other formats has plummeted to embarrassing lows in recent times. But bring on the T20 format; the old school swagger, style and qualities that have represented the teams in the bygone era lights up the atmosphere on the field.

 

Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith — for Indian Premier League (IPL), fans they are the bedrocks for their respective franchises. The destructive  duo in the upcoming ICC World T20 2014 will be opening the batting. While the search is still on for an opening partner for the beefy Jamaican with two triple hundreds to his name in Test cricket, there are big hits written all over the Gayle-Smith combination.

 

The middle-order is well settled and familiar names from the team that brought West Indies the cup in 2012 are still going strong. In Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo, West Indies not only have batsmen who can change the nature of the game in a matter of a couple of overs and can bat all the way through the innings, but wily bowlers who can tie down the opposition and take wickets at regular intervals.

 

Losing a T20 specialist like Kieran Pollard before the start of the tournament would have dented any team’s chances, but in Bravo and their World Cup winning captain Darren Sammy, the team is well-equipped to cover for Pollard’s absence.  West Indies’ conveyor belt of a domestic T20 league continues to churn out unorthodox, X-factor players who did well against England in the recently concluded T20 series.

 

ICC World T20 2014 schedule: Match time table with venue details

 

In the games against England at home leading up to the competition, West Indies yet again showed the ease in which they operate in this format. Sticking with the middle-order, Lendl Simmons has grown as a player and displayed a calm head to bring his team out of difficult situations recently. Denesh Ramdin is solid, if not spectacular and ditto with Ravi Rampaul.

Santokie’s bowling in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) was exceptional and he was too hot to handle for the English batsmen in the recently concluded T20I series. His sling arm action and his well-disguised slower one makes him one of the players to watch out for

With spin likely to dictate terms in the floodlights of Bangladesh, the erstwhile Sunil Narine will be West Indies’s best bet to put the brakes on the opposition. Narine is also in a rich vein of form and the slow and low wickets would have made him lick his lips to replicate his IPL exploits, where he announced his name in bright lights.

 

With the aforementioned spin set to play an important part in the tournament, Off-spinner Samuel Badree might also feature in the line-up, but Samuels and Gayle have been more than just regular part-timers in the past and Badree would have to sit on the fringes of this tournament.

 

West Indies’ biggest trump card however lies in the relatively unknown name of Krishmar Santokie. Santokie’s bowling in the Carribean Premier League (CPL) was exceptional and he was too hot to handle for the English batsmen in the recently concluded T20I series. His sling arm action and his well-disguised slower one makes him one of the players to watch out for.

 

All the four editions of the World T20 have brought out unheralded winners and it was their ability to use their resources well that made them go all the way. The balance of youth and experience in their squads helped them too. West Indies have all the resources and are well poised to retain the cup. As much as their flamboyance, they can also lose the plot and that is where experience plays a big part.

 

History suggests that it is not the champagne of youth alone that brings glory but wise, calm heads who can win the big moments. The current age group of West Indies is well-balanced and many members have been doing an exceptional job for a number of years in T20 leagues around the world. Whether they can yet again taste the glory of success is anyone’s guess,  but one look at the West Indies lineup is enough to suggest that they should thrive on the short boundaries and spin friendly tracks of Bangladesh.

 

(R Vishal is a journalist and an alumni of the Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)