Kolkata: When it comes to T20 cricket, the West Indies continues to evoke a sense of awe. The last campaign in the T20 World Cup in the UAE may not have gone as per their expectations, but it hardly dipped their market value when it came to the IPL auction last weekend.
As many as 17 players made their way to different franchises including the three retained stars, making it the highest number of overseas players from a particular country who are set to feature in this year’s IPL. The generation of Chris Gayles and Dwayne Bravos are gradually passing on the baton to the likes of Young Turks like Rovman Powell and Odean Smith - an assembly line of talent what makes the Caribbeans such a dangerous proposition as they look to rebound in the three-match series against hosts India from Wednesday.
The Rohit Sharma-led Indian team certainly look favourites after their 3-0 sweep of the ODI series, but the tourists are quite capable of asking enough questions of the Men in Blue to make it an intriguing series. There is a great deal of context in the upcoming battle as India are looking to kickstart their preparations for the T20 World Cup later this year in Australia and have named a jumbo squad to try out a number of experiments for the white ball showpiece.
There is an underlying sense of romance at heart in the City of Joy about West Indies cricket. The oldtimers still keep reminscing about Sir Garfield Sobers and the ‘falling sweep’ of Rohan Kanhai and their fast bowlers, much like their fascination for Brazil in football. In recent times, memories of the World T20 final in 2016 between the West Indies and England where Carlos Brathwaite clinched that magical finish with four sixes in the last over off Ben Stokes is still fresh - though it’s a pity that there will be no crowds to appreciate the Caribbean flavour at least for the opening game on Wednesday.
In an attempt to immortalise the memory of Sir Frank Worrell, the much revered captain of West Indies team of the Sixties, the Foundation Day of the hosting body Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) is named the ‘Frank Worrell Day.’ Folklore of the game tells you how Worrell was instrumental in saving the life of the then Indian captain Nari Contractor by donating blood when the latter was felled by a Charlie Griffith beamer during their tour of 1962.
Back in the Indian camp, the pressure is clearly mounting on Virat Kohli to deliver that elusive century - which incidentally came last at the same venue for the master batsman during India’s pink ball Test against Bangladesh in November, 2019. The absence of KL Rahul in the opener’s slot should finally pave the way for Ruturaj Gaekwad to get a game, though chances are that the Indian camp may prefer Ishan Kishan to give them an explosive start with a left-right combination in The Power Play.
There is an embarrassment of riches in the middle order with Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Surya Kumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant lending depth in the middle order. As many as four allrounders will be vying for two possible spots with Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Chahar, Harshal Patel and senior pro Bhuvaneshwar Kumar also available.
If Rahul Dravid & Co want to focus on the so-called process, they should begin it against a potentially strong T20 opposition like the West Indies.
Squads: India (from) Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (Vice-captain), Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Surya Kumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Ravi Bishnoi, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohd. Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel.
West Indies (from) Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Dominic Drakes, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Brandon King, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Kyle Mayers, Hayden Walsh Jr.