T20 World Cup: Early exit a rare blip for avante-garde West Indies

West Indiesโ€™ dream of a third ICC T20 World Cup title ended with its 20-run defeat to Sri Lanka in a Super 12 game on Thursday night.

Over the years, T20 games involving the West Indies have been full of speed, skill, aggression and ambition as the Maroon Brigade kept walloping opponents to stake a claim as the first truly great menโ€™s T20 international team. Four semifinals in six editions and two world titles attest to that.

So, their early exit from the 2021 edition should in no way diminish the larger achievements of a side that, for nearly a decade, set the gold standards in T20 cricket and refashioned the way the format is played and consumed.

Thatโ€™s the history-making out of the way, now for their performance this year – a campaign marred by curious selections, inability to tailor boundary-hitting strategy to conditions and an ageing group of T20 Hall of Famers.

No place for Narine

Previously when West Indies won the titles in 2012 and 2016, it had a team that was also built around effective spin bowling options, and so was particularly well-suited to defending. Leg-spinner Samuel Badree and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn are cases in point.

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However, there was no place for Sunil Narine in this World Cup squad, which was surprising given Narine had been active in the CPL, the IPL and the Hundred as well. Roger Harper, the lead selector, said at the time: โ€œSunil Narine is a great miss for a team like this in a tournament like this. Any team would miss having a bowler of that quality in the team butโ€ฆ [he] did not make our fitness standards.โ€ The team clearly missed Narineโ€™s experience and guile in conditions that aided spin bowling.

Over-reliance on power hitting

Another impediment was West Indiesโ€™ over-reliance on the power-hitting, which came a cropper on the slow, low pitches and large boundaries in the UAE. They had lost 0-3 to Pakistan in UAE in 2016 due to the same reason. The importance of running ones and twos on big grounds like Dubai and Abu Dhabi shone through.

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Lastly, the T20 nous and experience that Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo bring to the West Indies side from their time in T20 leagues globally is unparalleled, but itโ€™s time to pass on the baton. However, besides Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran, the next generation of West Indies T20 batting is yet to announce itself.

West Indies will play its final Group 1 game against Australia in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, with Bravo โ€” who has confirmed international retirement after West Indiesโ€™ exit โ€” saying โ€œit wasnโ€™t the World Cup we wanted.โ€ Itโ€™s time to write a new chapter.

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