By Ravi Madholall
The gusto in the preceding 50-over segment finished but it can now potentially replicate for the game’s shortest version from Wednesday when Global T20 champions West Indies tackle Ireland in Grenada.
For a large sector, there was an immense buzz to hear that dynamic all-rounder Dwayne Bravo was named in the West Indian squad for this three-match assignment and he could be a “danger-man” when it comes to this exciting format owing to his versatility.
Many though feel that he came out of retirement and made a statement that he can be attired in the West Indies’ maroon colours again especially to be a member for the 2020 T20 World Cup campaign slated to be held in Australia later this year.
They believe that many superlative talents around the region are obviously denied the chance to showcase their skills but chairman of selectors Roger Harper and his panel have other ideas.
Just after the announcement of the squad, led by Bravo’s Trinidadian compatriot Keiron Pollard, Bravo spoke with vehemence that he was ‘delighted’ to be back in the fray and more so in this version where he can be a great asset.
Looking at the composite of the side, West Indies should begin proceedings as hot favourites, a team replete with T20 specialists while their dominance over the tourists in the three-match one-day series also spurs hopefulness.
They trounced them 3-0, despite the penultimate encounter went down to the wires at the Kensington Oval, Barbados, but they have enough motivation and inspiration to churn out more pleasant results again in acquainted conditions.
Apart from Bravo, the batting will centre around Pollard, the prolific opener Evis Lewis, who was just outstanding in the one-day series scoring the only century (102) while young and formidable batting sensation Nicolas Pooran has also been in a pristine form.
The other bright prospect Shimron Hetmyer had a disappointing start to the new year having failed twice in the limited-over series and also was dropped for the final game but his temperament coupled with big-hitting could see the Guyanese left-hander come to the fore in scintillating fashion.
Like Hetmyer and Pooran, recalled pugnacious opener Lindl Simmons, Rovman Powell, Sherfane Rutherford and Brandon King are all capable of making a big impression in the batting department.
Their bowling, which was admirably decent on their recent tour of India against Afghanistan and the hosts, may undoubtedly bring a different dimension on the occasion, though.
Left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell was consistent while right-arm bowler Keswick Williams has become a T20 bowler due to some improvements.
Romario Shepherd, who was in the one-day team, is added to the T20 setup as a backup after his country-man and all-rounder Keemo Paul is reportedly injured.
Shepherd, the pacer, can also be vitally important in the PowerPlay, while medium-pacers Pollard and Bravo are two men who could be incisive particularly towards the conclusion of the innings.
West Indies have counted on the reliability of the slower bowlers to do the trick. Leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr made an impact in those three one-days while left-spinner Khary Pierre is improving rapidly and this version suits him more because of his subtle variations.
Ireland might lack any sort of enthusiasm after those three consecutive defeats but they are an aggressive unit in T20 cricket. They are currently ranked at number 14 where West Indies at number 10. The difference is not that huge by any stretch of imagination. Their batting will hinge around skipper Andy Balbirnie, the hard-hitting opener Paul Stirling, the effervescent Kevin O’Brien and Gareth Delany.
As much as pacer Boyd Rankin will bring a lot of experience with ball, spinner George Dockrell may be the real man to watch. He is a clever bowler. He astonished other high-profile batsmen with his spin varieties and his representation in 73 T20s also resonates well for the 27-year-old. Off-spinner Simi Singh was reasonably effective in Barbados and Grenada but things going to be absolutely different against these quality batsmen on a friendly-batting pitch more likely because of the shorter version.
Meanwhile, the next two games are Saturday and Sunday in St. Kitts.
West Indies team reads: Kieron Pollard (captain), Dwayne Bravo , Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Evin Lewis, Khary Pierre, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell, Sherfane Rutherford, Romario Shepherd, Lendl Simmons, Hayden Walsh jr., Kesrick Williams.
Ireland team reads: Andrew Balbirnie (Captain), Mark Adair, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Josh Little, Barry McCarthy, Kevin O’Brien, Boyd Rankin, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Gary Wilson, Craig Young.