What another year in West Indies Cricket. After the regional team failed to qualify for the 2023 50 over World Cup in India a few months ago, they somehow managed to put back smiles on the faces of West Indian fans. For the first time ever having International Cricket at home in the Caribbean before Christmas, the West Indies achieved the double by claiming the ODI and T20I series against the England men’s team. The one consistent factor in both series was the sensational batting by Shai Hope. He ended the series in similar fashion to how it started, smashing a six in the fifth T20I.
The depth in batting is evident as we have seen in 2023. West Indies have won three T20I series in a row starting against South Africa in South Africa, followed by India in the Caribbean and Florida last August and now this triumph against the mighty English.
When Shai Hope launched Chris Woakes over the extra cover boundary for a massive six, it definitely broke the hearts of English fans. West Indies will be proud of beating a high ranked England side in both formats of the white ball game. In the ODI series, it was the first time they had beaten England in 25 years at home in the Caribbean and also the first time in sixteen years overall in One day International series. Cricket fans globally would’ve seen over the last three weeks the natural talent that the West Indies possesses. We all knew Shai Hope is a World class batter in the ODI format but it was pleasing on the eye to see the emergence of young talents such as Gudakesh Motie and Matthew Forde. The latter came into the ODI series decider in Barbados to pick up the man of the match on debut. His crucial contributions with both bat and ball were displayed for the global audience to witness, whether live or on television.
It was a bit of fresh air to see these young talented Cricketers getting the opportunity to represent the Caribbean and performing well. Darren Bravo’s excellent form in the recently concluded Super 50 tournament made him miss out due to the West Indian selectors persisting on sticking with youth. However that’s another argument for another day. With the West Indies claiming the ODI series, they entered the T20I series full of confidence and surely their most highly favored form of the game. Having claimed the T20I series 3-2, it showed that on the small Caribbean grounds the team hitting the most sixes won. West Indies smashed 63 sixes compared to England’s 56. Both teams showed their muscle flexing with the likes of Andre Russell, Sherfane Rutherford, Rovman Powell, Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran Phil Salt, Jos Butler, Liam Livingstone and Harry Brook.
West Indian fans would’ve been really happy to see the recall of Dre Russ (Andre Russell) back in maroon colors. His absence was clearly missed in the last two years especially when the West Indies failed to qualify for the World T20 back in October 2022. That tournament saw England becoming World T20 Champs when they defeated Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Another reason for the West Indies to be ecstatic as they clinched this T20I series over the current T20 World Champs at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba, Trinidad. The proactiveness of this T20 series loss to the West Indies have immediately allowed the ECB to hire Kieron Pollard as a consultant coach for the T20 World Cup that’ll be held in the Caribbean and U.S.A. next June 2024.
The T20 World Cup next June will be the biggest prize for all International teams partaking in the tournament. West Indies men’s team have experience in winning the T20 World Cup on two occasions both in 2012 and 2016. The depth in batting is evident as we have seen in 2023. West Indies have won three T20I series in a row starting against South Africa in South Africa, followed by India in the Caribbean and Florida last August and now this triumph against the mighty English. The West Indies spin twins in Akeal Hosein and Gudakesh Motie certainly paid off especially when the pitches offered a bit of turn. Perhaps a third spinner can be a viable option as the pitches in the Caribbean do tend to offer assistance to slower bowlers.
One key area the West Indies will need to fine-tune is their death bowling. The World witnessed in the 3rd T20I in Grenada where England annihilated the West Indian bowlers for 80 runs in the last five overs of the match to win. Romario Shepherd has shown that he is a vastly improved death bowler. His absence in that 3rd T20I was a huge loss to the West Indian bowling attack. With T20I series in the new year coming up against Australia will provide more opportunities for the Windies to settle on a squad that can enter the T20 World Cup in June. Coach Darren Sammy will be very optimistic that West Indies can win the T20 World Cup. West Indies have done enough to prove that they are one of the tournament’s favorites to lift the T20 World Cup. According to Ian Bishop, it’s not about momentum but on how a team can play on the day. West Indies delivered the Christmas gift we all deserved and ended 2023 on a high. Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year 2024.