ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024: West Indies team preview

Spin may play a crucial role in the West Indies, going in favour of the co-hosts, says former selector Roland Butcher.

West Indies' Alzarri Joseph waves
West Indies will seek to become the first team to lift the T20 World Cup on three occasions when they co-host the tournament with the United States [Rick Rycroft/AP Photo]

Captain: Rovman Powell
Fixtures: Papua New Guinea (June 2), Uganda (June 9), New Zealand (June 13), Afghanistan (June 18)
Best finish at T20 World Cup: Champions (2012 and 2016)

The steady rise of the West Indies to the top of the game in the 1970s was built upon a ferocious pace quartet, but their plot to win the T20 World Cup, which they are co-hosting with the United States, could hinge on a trio of spinners.

For nearly four decades, the Caribbean rolled out lightning-quick bowlers that struck fear into their opponents. From Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, and Malcolm Marshall to Courtney Walsh, and Curtly Ambrose, it was an incredible line of bowling talent.

The demise of cricket in the region in the last 20 years is much lamented, mainly for, and due to, the loss of the thrill of seeing giants of cricket hurling the ball with such speed and aggression.

Where Test and one-day international (ODI) dominance has declined since the turn of the century, Twenty20 cricket has become something of a beacon for West Indies fans. This tournament is hoped to mark a record third World Cup win in the format with spinners set to be decisive, according to former West Indies selector and England batter, Roland Butcher.

“West Indies have got the players man-to-man to win it,” Butcher told Al Jazeera. “Their strength is going to be their spin bowling. Akeal Hosein, Gudakesh Motie and Roston Chase are going to be key bowlers.”

India and Pakistan to cash in on US venues

The tournament group stages will be played across three US venues – New York, Dallas and Florida – and all of the Caribbean.

The latter stages of the tournament will move to the Caribbean, where West Indies will play all their games. This, Butcher believes, will play into the hands of the current crop of Caribbean players as per May’s 3-0 T20 series trouncing of South Africa.

“The pitches [in the Caribbean] don’t really suit the faster bowlers,” Butcher continued.

“The ball was turning square for the spin bowlers in the series against South Africa, [Gudakesh] Motie got three in each of the first two games to win the matches and you’ll see a lot of that going on.

“The pitches in the US are going to be the best ones of the whole tournament. I have the feeling that they have produced Australian drop-in pitches.

“Hopefully, you will see the likes of India and Pakistan scoring a lot of runs but it’s not going to be the same when it comes to the West Indies, the scores are going to be much lower.”

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The West Indies expects ahead of T20 World Cup

Barbados-born Butcher, who was the first Black player to play for England, was part of the selection panel that helped West Indies to vastly improve performances in the last two years in all formats. That included a first Test win, to draw the series, in Australia in 20 years.

The scenes of celebration on the field were incredible, with one of the emerging fast bowlers, Jaydon Seales, rolling back the years and claiming a five-wicket haul.

The scenes across the entire Caribbean will be electric if the team can go on and secure a record third T20 crown, and a first on home soil.

“There’s a lot of optimism around the Caribbean right now about this World Cup, perhaps people are overconfident as well, thinking the West Indies only need to turn up and they will win it,” Butcher said.

“I don’t subscribe to that. You still have to play good cricket over a whole tournament to win it.”

“West Indies certainly has the game to beat the big teams on a one-off, but we’ll have to wait to see if, over the course of the tournament, they can maintain that standard.”

India's Shreyas Iyer and West Indies' Andre Russell playing in the Indian Premier League
West Indies allrounder Andre Russell, right, has won two T20 World Cups and in May lifted the Indian Premier League title with Kolkata Knight Riders under the captaincy of Shreyas Iyer [Mahesh Kumar A/AP Photo]

Butcher, who has been helping Oman prepare for their World Cup campaign, is mainly wary of the lack of game time for the West Indies players before their tournament opener against Papua New Guinea on Sunday.

“My only concern is the lack of match readiness for the players who have been sitting on the bench in the Indian Premier League,” he said.

“Only Andre Russell, Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer have played a lot of games in the IPL. The others have had one or two games, some have had none and now they are coming back to start a world tournament, that could have an effect on them.”

The last two group games are likely to be tough for the West Indies, when, after facing Uganda in the second match, they take on New Zealand and Afghanistan.

“They could start slowly and you lose two games and you are out of the competition,” Butcher added. “Luckily for them, Papua New Guinea is the first game. So even if the team is below par, they should be able to get over that hurdle. But they have much harder games to come.

“If they can fire, they have got a good chance. But I’m concerned about the lack of cricket for them.”

Three players to watch

Andre Russell: The allrounder is a veteran of two T20 World Cup wins in 2012 and 2016 and an important cog in Kolkata Knight Rider’s title-winning run at the recently concluded IPL. The 36-year-old’s form with bat and ball, right up to the final, was crucial in Kolkata’s third IPL title.

Akeal Hosein: The slow left-armer is ranked eighth among the best T20 bowlers in the world. The 31-year-old, who was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, has taken 136 T20 wickets at an average of 25 across his career. He is rising to prominence on the international stage only now, having made his debut for the West Indies in 2021.

Brandon King: The right-handed batter has risen to eighth in the global T20 batting rankings thanks to his destructive and powerful style. The 29-year-old from Jamaica began as a middle-order batter but has risen to be the opener. He struck 79 in the opening match of the recent T20 series against South Africa and was named player of the match.

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Source: Al Jazeera