Friday, December 15, 2017

Looking to a stout defence

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Mark Fraser

 IT IS not often that the West Indies cricket team gets the opportunity to defend a title and everyone connected to the regional squad will be looking on anxiously as the reigning champions put the trophy on the line in the 2014 World Twenty20 competition.

Not since the 2006 Champions Trophy have the Windies gone into a tournament as the defending champs—having secured the honours in that nail-biting final against England in 2004—and not since the heady days of the 1970s have they successfully retained their crown, with back-to-back victories in the 1975 and 1979 World Cups.

That was under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd, who could call upon the likes of Viv Richards, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, along with other lesser lights, to deliver match-winning performances which kept the West Indies at the pinnacle of world cricket for so many years.

Those legendary figures have long since hung up their flannels, but they too will be eagerly anticipating what transpires over the next two weeks on the dusty grounds in Bangladesh, which is hosting the premier contest in the shortest version of this fascinating game.

And, undoubtedly, so too will every single supporter of West Indies cricket, despite the lack of success of late, especially in Test matches, the sport’s ultimate trial of bat and ball.

But it is in T20s that we can hold out hope for positive results and be optimistic about the Windies’ chances, with bright stars like Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels in the line-up.

Those players, especially the first three, have made their names in this format, especially in the lucrative Indian Premier League, and are all match-winners on their day.

Despite all this individual brilliance, though, it is still a team sport and the aforementioned quartet will need the support of every teammate if they are to duplicate their triumph of two years ago in Sri Lanka.

And from captain Darren Sammy right through the ranks, each man is expected to wear his marooon cap with pride and put up a stout defence of the International Cricket Council’s World T20 silverware.

Not that it will be easy, especially with the defending champs drawn in a very tough group alongside India, Pakistan, hosts Bangladesh and resurgent Australia.

Being one of the two top teams among that quintet and moving onto the semi-finals is no foregone conclusion, but good recent form will have everyone thinking positive and feeling confident in tackling any of those rivals.

It sets the stage for an exciting competition, with the West Indies opening their campaign against India in Dhaka tomorrow (9.30 a.m. T&T time), and we wish them well in what will be a very testing tournament.

And we must not forget the West Indies women, who will be in action in the Women’s World T20, being played alongside the men.

Good luck to both squads. Give it your best shot.