World T20 2016 Preview: Can the West Indies overcome disastrous preparation to claim second title in the sub-continent?

Following on from their 2012 triumph, the West Indies return much of the same squad this time around, yet the build-up has been typically disruptive.

World T20 2016 Preview: Can the West Indies overcome disastrous preparation to claim second title in the sub-continent?
The West Indies head to India looking to become the first two-time winners of the World T20 (image via: ibnlive.com)

The West Indies head to India, looking to become the first two-time winners of the World T20 competition. Their win in similar conditions back in 2012 will serve as confidence for the side, with many of their stars remaining from the tournament four years ago.

The preparation has been typically tumultuous over the past month, which all started with a pay dispute between the players and the board, casting the team's participation in doubt before they came to an agreement. 

The squad was then forced to deal with a number of withdrawals from the original party, with Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard and Darren Bravo all declaring themselves unavailable.

Pollard was unable to overcome the injury troubles which have dogged him recently, while Bravo made the decision to concentrate on the longer format of the game and his Test career, making himself unavailable for the T20 side. Big-hitting all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite will replace Pollard in a like-for-like swap, with experienced opener Johnson Charles coming in for Bravo. 

Carlos Brathwaite has been called-up as a replacement for the World T20 squad (image via: foxsports)
Carlos Brathwaite has been called-up as a replacement for the World T20 squad (image via: foxsports)

Narine, meanwhile was not able to prove to testers that his bowling action was legal in time for the tournament, meaning that his ban will keep him out of the competition, with Ashley Nurse named as his replacement.  

The bad news continued less than a fortnight before the competition, with the possibility that one of their star players, Andre Russell could be banned over missed drug tests. Russell's whereabouts were unknown for three tests over the past twelve months, with the all-rounder potentially handed a two-year ban from the sport if found guilty, causing yet more disruption in the camp. 

Recent form

There's not much to speak of in terms of international T20 form for this West Indies side. Over the past twelve months they have played just two full T20 internationals in Sri Lanka, winning one and losing the other. 

More recently they took on Zimbabwe in a pair of practice matches in the UAE, winning on both occasions. The first game saw the bowlers impress, managing to defend a total of 147, before a pair of batsmen came to the party in the second game in a ten-wicket victory. 

Having lost the toss, the West Indies held Zimbabwe to 153-7 from their 20 overs, with Brathwaite picking up three wickets from his four overs. In reply, recent call-up Charles and Andre Fletcher knocked off the 154 runs needed for victory in just 12.4 overs. The opening pair hit nine sixes and 15 fours between them, with Fletcher ending unbeaten on 56, and Charles smashing 92 from just 43 deliveries to put their hands up for selection. 

Despite the like of international matches, practically every member of this squad has been involved in different T20 franchise competitions around the world such as the Big Bash and the IPL. 

They are usually amongst the first players drafted in most competitions, so a lack of international competition is not something that should worry fans. 

Star players

Looking at the West Indies star players, there is no better place to start than with Chris Gayle. Known as the 'World Boss', Gayle can lay claim to being the biggest hitting batsman in world cricket. 

He has hit 87 maximums in his 43 international T20 innings, and has a strike rate of 142.59 at the top of the West Indies order. On his day he can take apart any bowling attack in the world, and he tends to save his better innings for the big stage, just ask Brett Lee, who Gayle took apart at The Oval in this competition nine years ago. 

Dwayne Bravo is now an experienced member of this squad, and will be relied more than usual with the loss of Pollard, and potentially Russell too in the all-rounder spots. 

His excellent middle-order batting, gun fielding and top draw death bowling make him the perfect multi-dimensional cricketer which is key for Twenty20 cricket. If the 32-year-old can rediscover some of his best form, he will be a key cog in the side. 

Samuel Badree will be mightily important if this West Indies have designs on winning their second title. Sub-continent pitches clearly favour the slower bowlers, and without Narine, Badree will be the undoubted number one spinner in the squad. 

The 34-year-old leggie was previously the highest-ranked bowler in this form of the game, and captain Darren Sammy will have to utilise his four overs well throughout the tournament. 

Squad in full: Darren Sammy (capt), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Ryan Nurse, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Jerome Taylor. 

Opponents

The West Indies have been placed into the slightly-easier of the two pools, avoiding tournament hosts India

Their first match will be against a young up-and-coming England side in Mumbai, before they face Sri Lanka a week later in Bangalore

Their third group game will take place in Nagpur against South Africa, before they finish up against a qualifier (most likely to be Scotland or Zimbabwe) in Delhi. The top two in the pool will then progress to the knockout stages at the end of March. 

Tournament history

As mentioned, the West Indies triumphed in the 2012-running of this tournament, beating tournament hosts Sri Lanka in a low-scoring final. 

Following a vital super over victory against New Zealand in the super eight stages, the West Indies then slaughtered Australia by 74 runs in a one-sided semi-final, before beating Sri Lanka by 36 runs in the final thanks to Marlon Samuels' stand-out innings of 78 from 55 balls. 

2012 has been an outlier though for the Windies, with the side having failed to reach the final in the other four tournaments. The inaugural running of the competition in 2007 saw them knocked out in the group stages following defeats to South Africa and Bangladesh

A slightly better showing in England in 2009 saw them knocked out in the semi-finals by Sri Lanka after being bowled out for just 101 in pursuit of 159 on the back of Tillakaratne Dilshan's unbeaten 96. 

Home advantage came to nothing in 2010, with the side dumped out in the Super 8s, whilst 2014 again saw the side fall short in the semi-final by 27 runs to Sri Lanka on duckworth/lewis. 

Expectations

Having being drawn in a pool which is completely up for grabs, it would shock nobody if the West Indies reached the knockout stages once more. A win in their opener against England will be pivotal to their hopes, and they will hope that the woeful preparation in the build-up to their campaign won't hamper them too much. 

Without doubt, this side is stronger with Andre Russell in their ranks. If his ban rules him out of the tournament, then the pressure on the likes of Gayle, Bravo and Samuels will increase sevenfold. However, if Russell is able to take part in the tournament, then the West Indies will possess a starting XI which is as good as any in this form of the game. 

Phil Simmons' men will definitely have the self-belief that they can repeat their 2012 triumph in India this time around, but it will take an almighty effort to overcome the Asian sides who usually triumph in home conditions.