Too Early for Revival Talk, but West Indies are Dangerous Floaters for the T20 World Cup on Home Turf

Photo by Debasis Sen

Cricket has a tendency to find revival stories when underdogs who were once-powerful script upsets. In recent times, in the international game, no team has stoked this sentiment more than West Indies.

This might happen again after their T20I series win against India. To beat the most sought-after team after failing to make it to the main draw of the previous T20 World Cup and the upcoming 50-over event is just what a team in distress needs.

Hang on! West Indies have flattered to deceive far too many times for this victory to be treated as a redemption sign. The Champions Trophy win in 2004, T20 World Cup titles in 2012 and 2016, and a Test series win against England fanned hopes before everything fell apart to bring them back to square one.

Nonetheless, the reality check India got from a team which had lost to Scotland and Ireland in the final qualifying round of the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia highlighted the frailties in their own line-up.

Tilak Varma and Suryakumar Yadav apart, the batting unit was fragile, inconsistent and unable to absorb pressure collectively. Failing to chase down 149 in the first match, making 152 in the second and a below-par 165 in the decider does not augur well for a team which would like see itself as a contender for the T20 World Cup next June.

While Kuldeep Yadav was a class apart, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel were expensive. The fast bowlers were a letdown. Arshdeep Singh took seven wickets, but the trio of him, Mukesh Kumar and Hardik Pandya bowled 44.5 overs with an economy rate of 8.78. Their inability to dismiss the tail hurt India in the second game.

Also Read: Much Ado About Hardik Pandya and India’s Loss in the Caribbean

Other than having a lean run with bat and ball, Pandya the skipper took some questionable decisions, like under-bowling the spinners in a couple of games. The decision to hold Mukesh back till the death overs also seemed odd because he is known for taking wickets with the new ball. Pandya is more than useful with the ball, but not a strike bowler first up.

The loopholes in an experimental Indian side take little away from West Indies. Records suggest otherwise, but they still have a band of dangerous players. They were better in the first six overs and had enough batters down the order who went after the ball even when India took wickets. They lost the fourth game, but reaching 178-8 from 123-7 spoke of the depth and firepower in their line-up. Having more hitters than India made a difference in the series.

They showed adaptability in bowling and made the most of their limited spin resources by using Akeal Hosein effectively. Almost always bowled in the power play, he was given the first over in the fifth match and dismissed Yashasvi Jaiswal off the fifth ball. The left-armer’s steady and mostly straight line, with an economy rate of 6.60, proved his worth.

The fast bowlers stepped up too. Jason Holder was economical and Alzarri Joseph bowled a few nasty deliveries in an otherwise average series. Bits-and-pieces players like Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith and Kyle Mayers chipped with quick runs, a few wickets or cheap overs to contribute to the cause.

It was a team effort from a side which lost the Test and ODI series. Under Rovman Powell, they had won a T20 series in South Africa in March as well. But do not read too much into discussions on a possible resurrection. Going by the pattern they have set, this may very well prove to be a flash in the pan. Even in that case, this was a reminder that India have work to do, plans to make and gaps to fill in order to be better prepared for the 2024 T20 World Cup.

Also Read: King, bowlers headline West Indies’ series win

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