Co-hosts from Caribbean aiming to defy history and win third Twenty20 World Cup title

| | Antigua
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Co-hosts from Caribbean aiming to defy history and win third Twenty20 World Cup title

Tuesday, 21 May 2024 | AP | Antigua

After leading the West Indies to two Twenty20 World Cup titles as a captain, Daren Sammy has to defy history to win again as a head coach.

No host has won the tournament on home soil in the first eight editions, a trend Sammy hopes to break with the 2024 T20 World Cup being staged in the United States of America and the Caribbean.

Sri Lanka went the closest by reaching the final in 2012 before losing to West Indies in Colombo. That win is widely remembered for the Gangnam Style celebrations of the Caribbean players after Sri Lanka was bowled out for 101 in pursuit of a 138-run target.

Four years later, a fearless brand of West Indies cricket set the Eden Gardens alight in India. Carlos Brathwaite hit four consecutive sixes against Ben Stokes in the final over to steer the Caribbean team to a second T20 World Cup title.

Sammy was appointed head coach of the West Indies limited-overs squads last year. His past teammates Johnson Charles and Andre Russell, T20’s most accomplished all-rounder, are the only two-time champions still in the squad.

“We know how to select winning teams,” Sammy said in a news conference with Caribbean media to announce the squad. “We’ve done it before and I think, as a selection group, we’re really excited about it.”

“It’s an exciting time, and this preparation did not start now. It started from the last World Cup in Australia,” Sammy was quoted as saying by CNC3.

“What we’ve been able to do throughout the last year as a T20 group, the players we’ve exposed, has brought us to this moment, and I think we’re about to knock it out of this world.’”

Curtley Ambrose, the great West Indies pace bowler, was confident the squad could play the consistent, smart cricket required to win a third title.

West Indies and England are the only teams to have won the title twice, and no host has ever won, he said, “so all that is motivation for the guys to do well.”

The last two T20 World Cups in the United Arab Emirates in 2021 and Australia in 2022 didn’t go well for West Indies. Kieron Pollard’s team was eliminated in the group stage in the UAE with just a win. Nicholas Pooran’s side didn’t qualify for the main round in Australia the following year.

It was a setback for West Indies cricket, dating back to the late 1800s when a collection of mainly English-speaking Caribbean nations and territories began playing under a unified banner.

And, it’s something Sammy’s squad is determined to put right, coming off some solid individual performances in the Indian Premier League.

Without the pressure of the captaincy, Pooran could be a key to success in the middle-order. The left-hander had an impressive outing in the IPL, scoring 499 runs at a strike rate of 178.21 for Lucknow Super Giants.

The absence of Sunil Narine, who helped Kolkata Knight Riders top the IPL standings this season with his batting and bowling exploits, will be difficult to cover.

Sammy said he’d had conversations with Narine since the last Caribbean Premier League season, but couldn’t convince him into a West Indies comeback: “As the news clearly stated, Narine is retired.”

But, led by captain Rovman Powell, West Indies has enough batting firepower to challenge the leading teams and the advantage of playing in the CPL.

Young fast bowler Shamar Joseph, who has just played three T20s and is yet to make his T20 International debut, was selected ahead of Matthew Forde as the West Indies looked for extra speed in the bowling attack.

“Shamar Joseph has the pace, he has skills with the new ball,” Sammy said. “Not saying Matthew Forde doesn’t but when you look at the role, it makes it easier for us to now pick the personnel to fit that role.”

West Indies will be playing its first two Group C games against Papua New Guinea and Uganda at Providence on June 2 and June 9 before taking on higher-ranked New Zealand and Afghanistan at Torouba and Gros Islet on June 13 and June 18. The top two teams from each of the four groups in the league stage will advance to Super 8.

The tournament starts June 1 with a North American rivalry between the US and Canada in Dallas and concludes with the final on June 29 at Bridgetown, Barbados.

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