OPINION: The West Indies needed 19 runs off six balls. It was an improbable equation, but then the West Indies have always been an improbable team. Carlos Brathwaite, built like a house, but far more of a bowler than a batsman, smashed the first four balls of the over into the crowd. The West Indies were T20 World Cup champions again.
"Remember the name," called Ian Bishop from the commentary box in his mellifluous Caribbean baritone.
But although you may remember the name, the West Indies selectors certainly seem to have forgotten it. Brathwaite, the hero of five years ago, has been omitted from their squad . That is typical of the weird and wacky lead-up to this T20 World Cup.
If the finish to the last World Cup in 2016 was bonkers, then the 2021 version seems to have been on the crazy juice before it has even started. Just about every team in the comp seems to be involved in some sort of ritual immolation.
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Look at the winners from five years ago. The West Indies haven't just left out Brathwaite, they have also omitted Sunil Narine, one of the best T20 spinners in the world. This was apparently on the curious grounds of fitness even though Narine has been playing in the IPL with great success and was recently dubbed a legend for a closing performance against some of the world's best hitters.
West Indies captain Kieron Pollard said, “If I add my two cents or my words on how his non-inclusion came about, then it could be spun – just like how he’s bowling on these Sharjah wickets – in all different directions."
That didn't stop the 42-year-old Chris Gayle from taking to the airwaves. The big basher has been in a form slump of late, which prompted Curtly Ambrose, a bowling great and adviser at the previous World Cup triumph, to say on radio that Gayle couldn't be sure of a start.
Gayle responded by saying; "I can tell you personally, and you can let him know that Chris Gayle, the Universe Boss, have no respect for Curtly Ambrose whatsoever.”
You would think this sort of unfamiliarity with reality might be unusual – and Gayle was in turn reprimanded by Viv Richards for his infantile braggadocio – but nonsense appears to be the norm going into this World Cup. The Aussies, who have never won the thing, snigger, snigger, are in disarray.
They have lost both of their T20 build-up series 4-1 to the West Indies and Bangladesh and, if you want a form guide, Bangladesh have just lost their first qualification game to Scotland. The upshot is that coach Justin Langer is being undermined by several players from within.
When asked to give Langer the proverbial vote of confidence, T20 captain Aaron Finch said; "I think we’ve started to work more and more on, I suppose, our relationship as well, so it’s just one of those things. Anytime that the team’s losing there’s going to be questions asked, no doubt a difficult time and not ideal when it all plays out the way that it has."
Thanks for the endorsement, mate, but then it's chaos out there. Sri Lanka, the champions in 2014, are without three of their senior players – Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka – after the board banned the trio from international cricket for a year. They were caught on camera, ambling on the late night streets of Durham, breaking their bio-secure bubble whilst on tour in England.
Rashid Khan, perhaps the best T20 player in the world, stood down from the captaincy of Afghanistan because he got fed up when the Taliban-appointed head of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, Azizullah Fazli, selected several players who were viewed as unfit and undisciplined without consulting Rashid. The ICC T20 player of the decade made his displeasure public on Twitter.
South Africa, meanwhile, decided not to select Faf du Plessis, the second highest run scorer in this year's IPL, Imran Tahir and Chris Morris, because they were playing around the world. South Africa's director of cricket Graeme Smith said Morris was not available for international cricket, which Morris denied.
Smith had also previously contacted Tahir and said he wanted him to play in the World Cup. Tahir said; "After a few months I texted Smith and (Mark) Boucher and nobody replied to me. Since Boucher has become coach he has not contacted me once to tell me what his plans are. It's really sad, man. I served the country for 10 years, I think I deserve a little more respect than these guys thinking I'm worthless."
Very peculiar because Smith had previously said; "We have seen the success the West Indies has had in bringing back free agents." And he is quite right. The globetrotting West Indies are the most successful team in T20 World Cup history, winning two of the previous three and reaching the semifinal in between. And then Smith and Boucher go and do the opposite by selecting from insular criteria. Loco, man.
Like Tahir, Joe Root might also think he is viewed as oddly worthless having been discarded by England despite being their highest scorer in the final five years ago. Most England fans know who they would back to get runs in a big moment, but apparently the selectors don't agree. The injured Jofra Archer is also out along with Ben Stokes, the man who bowled that fateful over five years ago and sank to his haunches, head in hands.
India have undercut captain Virat Kohli, who has yet to lead an ICC cup-winning team, by bringing in MS Dhoni as "a mentor." Kohli subsequently said he was resigning as T20 captain after the tournament although the decision was down to workload. Sure
New Zealand's board has been no less helpful. The utter shambles that led to their retreat from their build-up tour of Pakistan means that they have had little preparation and face a good deal of ill-feeling in their opening game against Pakistan next Wednesday.
Indeed you can make a case that Pakistan are the most stable and serene team in this bonkers build-up to the World Cup. How unusual is that for a country that has so often been riven by inner turmoil in the past. These are strange times indeed. But if the cricket is half as fascinating as the prologue, then we are in for a treat.
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Mark Reason: New Zealand are far from the maddest team at the T20 World Cup have 1414 words, post on www.stuff.co.nz at October 19, 2021. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.