As their opening game approaches, a feeling of optimism pervades the West Indies camp.
They come to Bangladesh as the defending champions - a burden in itself – and utterances from the leadership suggest that they are mentally prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. The team headlines the proverbial ‘Group Of Death’. They will have to contend with the likes of the re-emerging Australian powerhouse, the capricious but extremely talented Pakistanis, capable of the worst and most brilliant performances a day apart, and India who, although in transition of sorts, feature some blossoming game-changers.
West Indies' top scorers in WT20
No team has ever won this event twice, a fact that is not surprising. Adapting to the prevailing conditions quickly is always an advantage but you need to get it right on the day or simply be lucky to win. You can stack the odds in your favour by having a balanced line-up- and the West Indies have this to a great extent.
To have Chris Gayle at the top opens up the possibility of the most destructive start to an innings in world cricket. The opposition will be under early pressure to get it right. His opening partner is likely to be Dwayne Smith, who has made great strides with his all-round play in the last twelve months, benefitting from his time with coach Robin Smith at the IPL.
Rotation of the strike when boundaries are not being hit continues to be a weakness in the West Indian line-up but in Lendl Simmons and Marlon Samuels they have two players who can get it done. They are excellent improvisers when it comes to hitting as well. Both are capable of maintaining early momentum or repairing early damage, whatever the case it. Samuels, in particular, will have fond memories of his last trip to Bangladesh.
The volatility of T20 cricket creates diverse scenarios in the blink of an eye. Solutions need to be just as swift given the limited opportunities available. Early collapses seem the most common and a team can only recover by having power in the lower half. A lot can be achieved on the back end with some good hitting in the last few overs. Conversely, a good start can be turned into an unassailable score by the same means.
West Indies' highest wicket-takers at WT20
In Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Darren Sammy, the West Indies have the power to change a game in the space of a few deliveries. These three complete what is a balanced batting line-up for this form of the game. Sammy has assumed the role of finisher, as the ultimate finisher Kieron Pollard is out due to injury.
If there is a question mark regarding this squad, it would revolve around on their bowling. There are two reasons for this.
The first is the surfaces we can expect in Bangladesh. On recent visits to the subcontinent, the West Indian seamers have struggled to execute on slow tracks. Yorkers, so integral to limited-overs cricket, has not been their stronger suit. This could prove a problem, although Ravi Rampaul, Sammy, Bravo and Krishmar Santokie use their variations effectively.
Santokie is one to watch out for. He is an accurate left-armer who swings the new ball in to right-handers. He bowls full and straight with good variations. It will be interesting to see how he handles being charged due to his lack of pace.
What of Narine?
Question mark number two is with regard to the group the West Indies find themselves in, and the perceived effectiveness of Sunil Narine, their trump card, and Samuel Badree, the other spinner in the squad. Narine did not bowl well on his last trip. He struggled to find the right pace and length. This time he will be up against India and Pakistan, both set of batsmen play spin well. A lot will rest on his shoulders while Badree is expected to be his usual tidy self.
This West Indies team can defend their crown. If there is a weakness, it is in the bowling department. But if they field well, they have every chance of winning it with the bat.