Pooran web
Lucknow Super Giants' Nicholas Pooran celebrates after scoring a half-century during the Indian Premier League match against Rajasthan Royals. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The Twenty20 World Cup is just over 50 days away and co-hosts the West Indies are back to the beats after missing out on the last two editions of World Cup, both 50-over and Twenty20. The tour of Australia has brought the swagger back in the Caribbean dressing room.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

The catalyst for the euphoria gripping the West Indies dressing room is the fast-bowling sensation Shamar Joseph. The 24-year-old pacer’s seven-wicket haul in the second innings at Australia’s fortress in Gabba ended a 27-year wait for a Test win, which previously came in 1997.

The added good news is that some of the top West Indian players are hitting the top gear in the Indian Premier League Season 17.

Twenty20 specialists Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine have starred in their respective teams’ victories and players like Rovman Powell and Joseph are yet to get the opportunity to pull their weight in this season.

SPO_240401 NARINE-1711984962128
Sunil Narine has had a good time with both ball and the bat for Kolkata Knight Riders this season. Image Credit: AFP

Narine announced his international retirement last year after not being picked for four years, but his stunning knock against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday night, coupled with a good spell where he dismissed Glenn Maxwell to put the brakes on the hosts’ innings, could give the selectors the idea of calling him back for the maroon jerseys.

Breathtaking assault by Narine

The Kolkata opener took the match away from Bengaluru with a breathtaking assault to take the wind out of the Royal Challengers’ sails to inflict the first and the only home defeat so far in this season’s IPL.

West Indies Twenty20 skipper Rovman Powell, who plays for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, is happy with the turn of events ahead of the World Cup, to be held in the West Indies and USA in June.

“It’s exciting times for West Indies cricket. It’s very good that the guys could pull off such a wonderful victory against Australia. A lot of things have been said about us in the past, but the guys keep working hard to show people that cricket is still alive and well in the Caribbean,” Powell, who had played for the Dubai Capitals in UAE’s ILT20 in January, told Gulf News.

Rovman Powell-1711984954378
Rovman Powell (right) of Rajasthan Royals talks with West Indies' ODI skipper Shai Hope of Delhi Capitals during the IPL. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

Australia and West Indies shared the Test series 1-1 but the Caribbeans lost the three-match One-Day Internationals rather tamely 3-0. But the real strength and character of West Indies cricket lies in the shortest format with professionals playing franchise cricket across the world. The Caribbean Islanders clinched the third and final Twenty20 by 37 runs in their last Twenty20 match ahead of the World Cup.

“When you’re looking at West Indies cricket and see what the guys have achieved over the past 12 months or so, it shows that talent isn’t an issue in the Caribbean. The issue with the Caribbean is the facilities. With the Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean, that should help a little bit where facilities will be improved by the ICC. So that’s one of the advantages of a World Cup being in the Caribbean and as Twenty20 captain, it is exciting to have more chances in the World Cup and, hopefully, the guys can continue to play good cricket going into the World Cup.”

SPO_240401 RUSSELL-1711984960434
Kolkata Knight Riders' Andre Russell produced a match-winning unbeaten 64 and two wickets against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Image Credit: AFP

Talking about the young pace sensation Joseph, Powell said: “It’s a fabulous start to an international career; anybody would want to start international cricket just as he did. It’s just for him now to take the learnings of Australia and keep on pushing in the right direction.”

Former West Indies skipper and all-rounder Jason Holder feels it is the franchise leagues that will prepare the Caribbean players to be in top shape ahead of the World Cup.

Shamar has been an inspiration

“Still a long way to go before the World Cup and the last series before the showpiece was the series against Australia. I think we may be playing South Africa in a warm-up game before the World Cup, but there’s not much cricket as a group leading up to the World Cup. There’s so much T20 cricket being played around the world and a lot of our players are involved in leagues going on around the world. So I think our players will be adequately prepared for the World Cup,” said the six-foot seven-inch tall Holder. “Shamar has been inspirational for West Indies cricket.”

While franchise cricket has played a big role in giving West Indies cricket some stunning match-winners, the flipside is that many of them prefer the leagues over the national team as it is the main money earner for many players.

Holder new
Jason Holder had played for Rajasthan Royals and Lucknow Super Giants in the past. However, the all-rounder has missed this season's IPL. Image Credit: SPORTZPICS for IPL

“It’s a difficult one because Twenty20 cricket provides an opportunity for the guys to be able to take care of your family. In the Caribbean, a lot of the players are from small and poor income families, so it’s always a big struggle. West Indies is not one of those powerful boards that can give guys luxurious red-ball contracts, so the guys will always be seeking avenues outside of the Caribbean in Twenty20 leagues,” Holder said, defending the players for their choice.

While defending his players, skipper Powell almost toed the same line as his Dubai Capitals teammate and said that with better communication between the board and the players, this issue could have been sorted.

“There has to be flexibility. I don’t think in this day and age you can you can pin down players to any particular franchise or any particular organisation. The scope of work area continues to change. So that’s where the clear communication needs to come in between the players and the cricket board. We definitely need to be a lot more flexible and make sure that both parties are honest then it is easy to come up with a compromise solution for each player.”