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Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

If West Indies welcome back their IPL giants they will have a dream team at World Cup

West Indies players have set the party abuzz. Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Chris Gayle, Alzarri Joseph and Kieron Pollard have all become the darlings of IPL franchises, providing great entertainment.

cricket Updated: Apr 12, 2019 14:30 IST
file image of Kieron Pollard
file image of Kieron Pollard(PTI)

Though the tournament’s two biggest names – Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni -- were in the fray, the stake-holders who had pumped in crores of rupees were left dejected after an insipid opening IPL game that saw Chennai Super Kings defeat Royal Challengers Bangalore after dismissing them for 70 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

However, West Indies players have set the party abuzz. Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Chris Gayle, Alzarri Joseph and Kieron Pollard have all become the darlings of IPL franchises, providing great entertainment.

Russell looks invincible in KKR colours; Narine has chipped in with cameos as opener; Gayle’s knocks crush the spirit of the bowlers; pacer Joseph took a record 6/12 on IPL debut, and on Wednesday night, Pollard produced the most devastating innings of this season in Mumbai Indians’ last-ball win over Kings XI Punjab.

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The collective show of excellence has come days before the West Indies selectors name the squad for the World Cup in the UK. If these impact players come into reckoning – winds of changes are blowing in Windies Cricket Board and administrators are keen to end the prolonged tension with its stars – it could turn things around drastically for the two-time champions.

If the Caribbean selectors add Gayle and company on the basis of IPL performances, they could, six weeks on, have a potent side. Add Jason Holder, Carlos Brathwaite, talented Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope, and you can have a dream team.

The game has changed. It is no more about fours, but six-hitting is the preferred mode of scoring. In power-hitting, West Indies players are unmatched. Pollard smashed 10 sixes, eclipsing Gayle’s seven, at Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday.

So far, T20 specialists have been kept out of the Windies team after being labelled mercenaries by their Board -- for picking lucrative T20 leagues over the regional team. The friction became severe during Dave Cameron’s tenure as Cricket West Indies President, because of his rigid stance against the players. During his tenure, from 2013, top players rarely played for West Indies. As a result, they have gone 15 ODI series without a win, stretching to August 2014 against Bangladesh.

However, the regime changed last month and the new bosses are more accommodating. Former team manager, Ricky Skerritt, beat Cameron in the CWI board elections, and he has declared the strongest team will be picked for the World Cup.

Hosts and World No 1 England got a taste of the Caribbean flavour in the recent ODIs in which Gayle dominated and helped square the series.

Pollard, who has in the past complained that Windies Board officials have not given assurances for him to pick country over club, said on Wednesday: “There has been a lot of turmoil in West Indies cricket in the last couple of years. But from what we have seen in the last couple of weeks, there’s a change. Pollard was one of the guys blacklisted.... The most I can do every time I step on a cricket field is try to put runs on the board. There’s people who have the jobs to select and we’ll see how that goes. I’m 31, Chris Gayle is still playing and he’s 39 and he’s still whacking it out of the ground.

“There’s a new chairman of selectors (former keeper Courtney Browne), there’s a new president of the cricket board as well. You take it as it comes.”

Pollard agreed if the best side lines up, West Indies will be the most formidable in the 10-team tournament.

“We know what we can do. And I think Chris batted superbly well (vs MI). Russell, he’s smacking the ball, Narine...these guys are having a good tournament and again it’s just about enjoying cricket. When your mind is free, you just go out and enjoy cricket and not think about much. There are lot of opinions and other things. But it’s the people that’s close to you and what they think that matters.”

Gayle, Pollard and Narine played in that 2014 series against Bangladesh (when Windies last won an ODI series) with Gayle opening, Pollard coming in at No 5, 6 and 7 and Narine playing as a bowler. In his last ODI, Russell batted at No 8. If picked, Russell would most likely be unleashed in the death overs while Pollard is better off in the middle order. From the team that played against England in February-March, Narine could partner Gayle and be a pinch-hitter replacing John Campbell. Shai Hope (No 3) and Shimron Hetmyer (No 4/5) have a good partnership going in the middle-order while Pollard can add another dimension to it.

How much will the regional side tap into the club class is the question.

First Published: Apr 12, 2019 14:30 IST

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