Alexei DaCosta

Sat, 27 Nov 2021

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Every great sports dynasty has a beginning, and most importantly, an end. Think Kobe and Shaq’s Los Angeles Lakers, Zidane’s Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League or the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls of the ‘90’s. Even cricket has seen its fair share of dynasties – West Indies in the ‘70’s and ‘80s and Australia in the early 2000s. The most recent dynasty in cricket however, has been the West Indies T20 teams of the 2010s.

Three of the four T20 World Cups held during that decade saw West Indies go as far as the semifinals, becoming champions in two of those three tournaments. It is no secret that the West Indies boasted arguably the most destructive and perhaps a very unstoppable roster. What was also mind-boggling is their style of play – ditching strike rotation to biff ball after ball over the fence.

It was a team that boasted the likes of inspirational captain Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Keiron Pollard, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle. Each man, in his own right, can claim to be master of their art.

Every great sports dynasty has a beginning, and most importantly, an end. Think Kobe and Shaq’s Los Angeles Lakers, Zidane’s Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League or the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls of the ‘90’s. Even cricket has seen its fair share of dynasties – West Indies in the ‘70’s and ‘80s and Australia in the early 2000s. The most recent dynasty in cricket however, has been the West Indies T20 teams of the 2010s.

Three of the four T20 World Cups held during that decade saw West Indies go as far as the semifinals, becoming champions in two of those three tournaments. It is no secret that the West Indies boasted arguably the most destructive and perhaps a very unstoppable roster. What was also mind-boggling is their style of play – ditching strike rotation to biff ball after ball over the fence.

It was a team that boasted the likes of inspirational captain Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Keiron Pollard, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle. Each man, in his own right, can claim to be master of their art.

Ah yes, those were the glory days, finally returned to Windies cricket after decades of deserting the region. But there’s a saying, “quit while you’re ahead”. As with all the dynasties mentioned in my first stanza, the main players or in some cases the organizations behind the teams knew when to move on. Samuels and Sammy got the memo and got out.

The West Indies squad selected for the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates last month was met with raised eyebrows from all over the cricketing world. There were loads of criticism, from fans and former players alike. 

Chris Gayle, 42,  who received scathing criticism for not retiring by now, was deemed past his best and badly out of form. Dwayne Bravo, 37, was recently recalled to the regional set up to lead the bowling attack. Keiron Pollard, 34, became captain while Dre Russ (33) could hardly stay fit these days. All in all, the average age of the squad in UAE was 31.

It begs the question, more than four years on since the last tournament, the selectors could not find suitable youngsters that could understudy these stalwarts? Every great championship team at some point needs a refresh, either in philosophy or in personnel… Usually, it’s both. 

Truth is, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Dropping 42-year-old Chris Gayle down the order to 3 and 4 won’t get you the desired results, for the simple fact that Gayle has never batted below No. 2 in T20s before the age of 39. So a change in philosophy can only come with a change in personnel.

What about other players? Players who have impressed like Sherfane Rutherford, the experienced Jason Holder, Brandon King, Chandrapaul Hemraj and Dominic Drakes were not even in the initial squad. These are players that should be given as good an opportunity to impress as players like Lendl Simmonds (36), Andre Fletcher (33) and Ravi Rampaul (37), have had post 2016.

In a sense, you can’t entirely blame the selectors, you have some of the greats making themselves available for national selection (although I expected better from them). It is really on the players, to know when to walk away, to quit while ahead. 

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