Question for you: Who will do
better, West Indies at the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka, or Trinidad and Tobago at the Champions League in South Africa?
Maybe that is not such a fair question since we are talking about teams in two different levels of competition.
The West Indies of course are competing at the elite level, where the very best players in the world meet—with the exception of the estranged Englishman/South African Kevin Pietersen of course.
Trinidad and Tobago will be meeting some of those players as well, but they will be spread around Yorkshire and Uva Next in the first instance in Pool B of the qualifying phase; and provided they get to the group stage, Dwayne Bravo's Chennai Super Kings, Kieron Pollard's Mumbai Indians and South Africa's Highveld Lions.
Both teams face tough assignments.
I don't know what about the West Indies' patchy record makes them favourites for this World Twenty20.
A drawn series with an Australian side now ranked above only Ireland and Zimbabwe by the ICC, and a 2-0 sweep of New Zealand (No. 5) in Florida would have looked more impressive next to victory over defending World champions England when the teams met earlier this year. But Alex Hayles' clouting of 99 off 68 balls dirtied Darren Sammy's report card, England winning by seven wickets.
Someone was trying to play mind games with the Windies, calling them favourites for the World T20; the same way they were supposed to be favourites for the limited overs section of the England tour only to come back home winless.
There is no question that the team from the Caribbean has gelled better this year and has more self belief.
There is no doubt either, that the West Indies have some of the T20 world's star boys. Top of the list is the "Big Man" Chris Gayle. He is a frightening prospect to bowl to, more than ever these days, I find.
When he decides to hit, the clouds are the only limit, because the ball just doesn't stay within the boundary. Length hardly matters. When Gayle goes into all-attack mode, he stays there. But while that may have always been the case, he has learned to pace himself a lot better, so even in T20s he can start slow and at will, crank it up with one swing.
Put Gayle together with Dwayne Smith—himself a more selective player nowadays as he approaches his 30s—and opening bowlers could have real trouble on their hands: left-hand/right-hand, more control, and shots, shots shots.
Get past them and you still have to deal with the silkier Bravo brothers, the classy Marlon Samuels and more heavy artillery in Kieron Pollard, Sammy and Andre Russell. Depending on their line-up, the Windies can get runs all the way down to No.11. And with the ball, they have varied threats. Fidel Edwards can provide genuine pace and swing, Ravi Rampaul needed accuracy at the death, Samuel Badree a slow bowling option at the top of the innings and Sunil Narine and Marlon Samuels, troublesome turn and deceptive stuff in the middle and near the end.
On paper, this side would be playing in the final for sure.
But the T&T team for the Champions League does not have the look of winners. Not on paper.
Had names like Dwayne Bravo, Pollard and Narine been on that list of 15, then certainly. But imagine a fan going to a game at Newlands, looking at the scoreboard and asking Yannick who? Evin who?
Thing is though, that Champions League lights seem to do marvelous things to players from the land of Trini. In 2009, the question would also have been Kieron who? That was before he took Moises Henriques and the New South Wales Blues apart in the first edition of the Champions League.
"Mystery" man Narine was also an unknown quantity to Kolkata Knight Riders until CL 2011. They saw enough then to land him for US$700,000 for Indian Premier League 2012. Even Kevon Cooper became an IPL player after his spirited showing in last year's Champions League.
However, players like Ottley, neat left-arm spinner and a batsman who can rise to the occasion, the exciting strokeplayer Lewis and the still relatively unknown paceman Gabriel bring an X-factor to T&T that can add an edge to a settled side of Champions League vets anchored by skipper Denesh Ramdin. Really like the way Lewis plays his shots and the way Ottley handled the pressure against Bangladesh the other day. They could be good additons in this next CL adventure.
The Darren Ganga teams of 2009 and 2011 brought a zest, fearlessness and flair to the Champions League.
They reminded the Indian audiences of the West Indies cricket they knew. T&T won hearts without "stars." But what they had above all else was unity of purpose and a real desire to succeed. IPL money was in their sights no doubt. But Ganga and the team management had developed a system of doing things that worked.
That system is still in place.
Sammy's Windies side is working its way towards becoming a similar type of never-say-die unit. But it's not there yet. And for all the weapons they possess, the Windies still misfire too often to overcome the very best sides in Sri Lanka.
So they won't make it to the final, I'm sticking my neck out to say.
Don't expect T&T to win in South Africa either. But they can go far. Very far.
It's an Independence 50 feeling.