In the 1970s and early 1980s, they were the superpower of world cricket. Even after they lost the World Cup final to India in 1983, they remained a very strong team for the next 15 years or so thanks to the presence of such players as Richie Richardson, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Brian Lara. But as these greats left the international arena, one after the other, the West Indies were reduced to a below-average team.
Since 2000, they have produced only one player that can be counted among greats -- Chris Gayle. Their only major achievement in the 2000s was the crown of 2004 ICC Champions Trophy under the leadership of Lara.
Things changed, however, a couple of years ago when they developed a very competitive squad for the shortest format of the game and consequently became the champions of T20 cricket.
On March 23, exactly a week from today, with a match against India, they will begin the campaign to defend their crown. So what are their chances this time? I believe they are going to be the first team in the history of the World T20 to retain their crown. They achieved this feat in ODI World Cup in 1979. And they will do it in T20 this year. All previous four editions have been won by different teams -- India in 2007, Pakistan in 2009, England in 2010 and West Indies in 2012. The first three winners failed to defend their crown. But West Indies are going to change the trend this time.
Their squad is very similar to the one that lifted the trophy two years ago at R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo. This time, too, they are led by Darren Sammy and have the services of Dwayne Bravo, Samuel Badree, Marlon Samuels, Gayle, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Johnson Charles and Dwayne Smith.
Samuels, Gayle, Charles and Bravo were the major architects of their 2012 triumph in batting, while Narine and Rampaul were the stars with the ball. So why can’t they do it this time? They will.
Most of them are in good form. Gayle, Samuels, Smith, Sammy and Russell played match-winning innings against England in the T20 series recently. Similarly, Badree, Samuels and Bravo have been doing well with the ball. This is why they thrashed the English side in the T20 series despite earlier losing the ODI series.
Being a Pakistani, I wish Pakistan to win this title once again, but looking at the squads of the teams competing in the tournament I find it difficult to call the Green-shirts the favourites. Let’s see what happens.