Windies visualise 2020 redemption

After the fiasco of the World Cup
comes the chance for some serious rebuilding in the land of calypso cricket

It was only 10 months ago that the
last Twenty20 World Cup concluded with Pakistan triumphant at Lord’s.

Now another tournament comes along.
But why should the International Cricket Council take a different view to every
other cricketing body?

No one dares to miss out on the
bonanza, whether in India in April, or in England in June.

So if it’s May it must be the West
Indies. The world’s best Twenty20 cricketers are now being herded towards the
Caribbean in the next leg of a never-ending extravaganza. And you thought the
election campaign was dragging on a bit.

It is an important three weeks for
cricket in the Caribbean. The 50-over World Cup there in 2007 was a fiasco, for
which the ICC had to take as much blame as the locals.

The World Cup in the Caribbean
three years ago epitomised everything that is wrong with the modern game: greed
in abundance with prices far too high, far too many games, most of which were
played in half-empty, white elephant stadiums.

The locals were soon alienated by
it all to be followed by a large chunk of the world’s television audience, upon
which the game relies so much.

Now is the time to claw back some
credibility in the Caribbean. The two previous Twenty20 World Cups, in South
Africa and England, have been a success precisely because they avoided the
pitfalls of that 50-over tournament.

Sensible pricing – especially in
South Africa – made the games accessible; the competition was over inside three
weeks and left everyone wanting more, a concept that cricket authorities around
the world usually refuse to entertain, just in case they miss out on another
pay packet.

In Guyana, St. Lucia and Barbados
there is scope for some sort of redemption after the debacle of that World Cup.

The tournament can work there; the
stands can be filled, though it remains a problem that the stadium in Guyana is
in the hinterland of the city of Georgetown; it takes some reaching for the

In St. Lucia there is a shortage of
locals. In Barbados there should be no problem, though it would help if West
Indies became contenders for the trophy.

Twenty20 is no longer a bit of hit
and giggle, with David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd guffawing and bellowing: “Start the
car,” and declaring: “It’s all great fun.” The players have not
taken that view once the format became established.

It is now a deadly serious game,
mainly because this is where the money lies. Skills have been enhanced, new
ones developed and the analysts have buried themselves in their laptops.

West Indies will have the batting
strength of captain Chris Gayle, the brilliant Shivnarine Chanderpaul and the
all round skills of Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo.

Jerome Taylor and Ramnaresh Sarwan
are back after injury and the rest of the side is bristling to prove themselves
as well.

One conclusion they have drawn –
another obvious one, perhaps – is that the first six overs of any Twenty20
game, when the fielding restrictions are in place, are the critical ones.

The women’s tournament starts on 5
May, the men’s on Friday.

The shorter the duration of the
game, the more likely there is to be an upset along the way. It is possible
that Ireland or Zimbabwe could sneak a victory.

There would be celebration around
the world if Afghanistan did, for they must be everybody’s second favourite

Logic dictates that Pakistan will
struggle to retain the trophy, but then logic rarely has much to do with
Pakistan cricket.

If anything they will be even more
unpredictable now that Shahid Afridi has the reins. India have vast experience,
though their team is not so fleet of foot as most of the others and they will
miss Virender Sehwag.

Sri Lanka have a wonderfully
unorthodox bowling attack, which can cope with most conditions, but which
should be suited to the Caribbean, where pitches have become ever more

The Antipodeans have yet to really
excel at this form of the game, while South Africa travel to the Caribbean
after a year of stagnation.

The eventual winner is impossible
to predict, which is one of the attractions of the tournament. So it is best to
ignore the bookies, follow the heart rather than the head, and plump for West
Indies, because that would provide the injection that Caribbean cricket

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