Chris-Gayle-of-West-Indies-bats-during-the-International-Twenty20-match-between-Australia-and-the-West-Indies
Chris Gayle has been West Indies’ star batsman T20Is © Getty Images

West Indies will take on South Africa in the third and final Twenty20 International (T20I) at Durban having already won the series 2-0. Their T20 series win is unsurprising, but it is in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) that they must prove themselves. Shiamak Unwalla looks at what makes the Caribbean side so fearsome in T20Is and so fearful in ODIs.

If ever there was a group of players who thrive on the T20 format, it would have to be the Caribbean kings. Present in virtually every big T20 league in the world, no good side is complete without a West Indian in the mix. Names like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, and Andre Russell attract the crowds and usually provide massive fireworks as well.

So with a team as full of dominance as the West Indies, ruling the T20 charts in international cricket ought to have been cakewalk. But while they have been largely consistent — they were victorious in the ICC World T20 2012 — their form and consistency in the other two formats of the game have been far from impressive.

And herein lays one of the strangest aspects of West Indian cricket: it is understandable to be powerful in Tests and weak in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and T20s, or vice versa. India is one such example; they have an abysmal record in Test cricket in the last few years, but they remain a superpower in ODIs and T20Is. But the case with the West Indies is nothing short of bewildering. To thrive in T20s while struggle in both Tests and ODIs is surprising to say the least.

West Indies have won each of their first two T20Is against South Africa. On both occasions, the protagonists remained the same: Gayle and Marlon Samuels, with backup from Dwayne Smith. While it is unquestionable that Gayle is among the best — if not the very best — T20 batsman going around, the fact that West Indies have someone like Jason Holder coming at No. 9 shows their depth. In both matches the middle-order suffered a collective brain freeze, but Gayle had done enough to secure victory.

But this is 20-over cricket. ODIs are different. One tremendous 31-ball 77 will probably win the game in a T20, but more often than not if it is the only contribution in an ODI, the team will falter. And this is where the West Indies lag so far behind. Their T20 and ODI side comprises of the same core (although Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard will not feature in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 due to what seems like a battle of egos between West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the players). What that means is that Gayle might play a superb cameo at the top, or Samuels might score an aesthetically scintillating 80-odd, but the team may not collectively make more than 250.

Their players love hitting fours and sixes, but not all of them are good runners between the wickets. So while the fours and sixes will come regularly, they are usually sandwiched by a slew of dot balls, which is counter-productive since the runs then dry up only to come in fits and bursts.

West Indies are favourites to beat South Africa again at Durban to clean-sweep the series; but barring a miracle of sorts, South Africa ought to destroy them in the ODIs. With this series serving as a warm-up for the ICC World Cup 2015, the West Indies would do well to try and carry forward their T20 form into ODIs. The talent possessed by them is indisputable; it is the temperament that is suspect.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and cricket fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @ShiamakUnwalla)