Remember Carlos Brathwaite? His four sixes off Ben Stokes in the last over of the 2016 World Cup had snatched the trophy from England, making the burly Barbados cricketer a household name.
Five years have gone by, and as the two teams square off again in Dubai on the first day of the 2021 event, both Brathwaite and Stokes – who are not part of their teams – will be missed. But a West Indies-England clash always brings a different flavour. While England are the most improved limited-overs team in the last five years with a sense of machine-like precision that won them the 2019 ODI World Cup, West Indies are always the unpredictable bunch with a dash of flair that can turn a game on its head. TOI takes a look at the talking points of Saturday’s big-ticket clash.
WI’s famous T20 ‘mercenaries’: It’s almost a given that if you are a CSK, Mumbai Indians or Kolkata Knight Riders supporter, your second team of the World Cup is West Indies. And the reason behind that is three allrounders – Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell. These three superstars have given a lot to their respective franchises in IPL and are invariably the darlings of the crowd, wherever they go. It’s their dynamism, big-hitting, brilliant yorkers, incredible agility on the field that make West Indies one of the favourites, going into the tournament. While Pollard is the captain of West Indies and Bravo was in good form in IPL, it’s the fitness of Russell that is the area of concern. He missed most of the IPL due to injury and even though he was closing in on full fitness again, KKR couldn’t risk him for the final. If Russell is fit to bat and bowl, it will be difficult to bet against this West Indian side.
And add to that one Chris Gayle, who has struggled of late. But we all know if he gets going, what we are in for!
Morgan’s horrid run and how England deal with it: England captain Eoin Morgan was in pathetic batting form for KKR, but he clung on to his spot as the franchise virtually played with one batter less. It’s been less than a week since the IPL final and it’s unlikely that Morgan will be miraculously back in great touch. The skipper, in fact, said that he won’t hold on to his spot if he is not in form. England, though, have quality in the middle-order in the form of Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali who have a fair understanding of the conditions in UAE. Liam Livingstone is another dangerous player who can hit those huge sixes and Morgan said that he has recovered from the finger injury he sustained during IPL.
Exclusion of the X-factor: The one in-form player who will be missed by T20 fans across the world is Sunil Narine. The mystery spinner was one of the reasons behind KKR’s recent run to the IPL final and he seemed to be getting back the nip which made him a terror in T20s in the last decade. Narine also has the ability to hit big and he would have been an asset for the Windies on both batting and bowling fronts, especially in UAE conditions. The exclusion of a definite X-factor on grounds that Narine doesn’t meet the fitness standards of the team (as explained by chief selector Roger Harper) is slightly baffling. But Windies probably believe that Roston Chase – a more conventional cricketer – will be up for the challenge.