T20 World Cup 2021 – Not just power-hitting, Kieron Pollard expects ‘complete games of cricket’ from West Indies

T20 World Cup 2021 – Not just power-hitting, Kieron Pollard expects ‘complete games of cricket’ from West Indies

Kieron Pollard feels that flexibility, game awareness, and the ability to tailor their game to situations while not giving up on their core strengths will define West Indies’ 2021 T20 World Cup campaign, as they look to take home their third trophy.
The defending champions, led by Pollard, boast of a mix of players, all of whom have had varied T20 experience over the past three months. While some, like Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Fabian Allen, Andre Fletcher and Roston Chase have had prolific CPL seasons, others, like Pollard himself, Dwayne Bravo, Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer are coming off five intense weeks of the IPL in UAE.

“It [IPL experience] was good, not just for us but all players involved in the World Cup, who got a feel of what is on offer,” Pollard said at a media event on Saturday. “There will be some stats comparison and trends that may have come out of the IPL. We have to take all that into consideration, take the context of the surfaces, atmosphere, and put them into our game plan.

“For us, most of our guys got a chance to play recently here, so for us it’s about trying to hit the ground running, start off on a positive note, get those first two points and see what happens after that.”

Pollard touched upon why it was important to do the simple things well, and how it was possible to do so without deviating from their tried and tested success formula of hitting big from ball one.

“You’ve seen it all around the world, that is how we go about our cricket,” he said of the power-hitting. “Lot of people, analysts at different times, harp on dot balls, singles, ones and twos. Everything is important, but we still have to play to our strengths. I’m not going to say what that is because then the heading will be ‘West Indies just want to hit sixes’.

“Living in bubbles is difficult. If a guy who enjoys himself in any situation can’t take it, it shows how difficult it can be for some of us. We are backing him to do well”

Kieron Pollard on Chris Gayle

“We need to keep our strengths as strengths and work on our weakness. We have a lot of powerful guys in the line-up, but if the situation warrants, we also have guys who can manoeuvre strike, run between the wickets. We look forward to playing complete games of cricket.”

One of those players who has impressed with the very qualities Pollard mentioned is Chase. Two years ago, his game wasn’t deemed good enough for the shortest format. From there to having worked his way up to being CPL 2021’s MVP, the batting allrounder has come a long way. In a line-up full of big hitters, Chase lends calm and solidity with the bat, while also offering handy offspin. His rise up the ranks after having played just five games across six years – 2012 to 2018 – is staggering.

“For him it was a matter of evolving his game and trying to be the best he can,” Pollard said. “He got a chance with St Lucia Stars. It’s a matter of putting guys in the right positions, and he has delivered for them for the last two years. It goes to show how every time you get a chance, you want to do well. He’s done well for himself.

“The type of cricket he plays fits right into our balance, right in the middle of our power-hitters. We need a guy who can manoeuvre the ball, hit the occasional boundaries, and keep the run rate going. That’s an area we keep constantly working on, and we thought he was the right fit at this time. I look forward to see what he has to offer. He hasn’t played much white-ball cricket, and teams may not have that much data. Or maybe they do, there’s an archive full of runs and wickets. We look forward to reaping rewards of his form from the CPL.”

On the sluggish pitches in the UAE, batting well, power-hitting or otherwise, would be important, but the other 20 overs are equally crucial – Pollard underlined the importance of using spin well and how the IPL experience would be beneficial in terms of knowing how to use them keeping in mind the different boundary dimensions of the three venues.

West Indies have two frontline fingerspinners in Allen and Chase, while Hayden Walsh Jr brings in the wristspin variety. At the 2016 World Cup in India, they relied heavily on Samuel Badree‘s legspin. He ended as their leading wicket-taker with nine scalps.

Pollard’s response followed Virat Kohli’s, when he was asked why the focus has suddenly shifted once again from wristspinners to fingerspinners, while discussing R Ashwin’s return to the fold after a four-year gap. “At one point, wristspinners dominated, but in the recent past, for whatever reasons, don’t know if it is conditions or what, fingerspinners are back in favour,” Pollard observed. “If you want a guy to consistently bowl to a bigger side of the ground, fingerspinners may have more control. We have a couple of them in our armoury and we can hopefully maximise dimensions in whatever spin there is at any given time. Our spinners aren’t the most experienced but sometimes it can work in our favour.”

And then there are Pollard’s two trump cards, two men who many thought had played their last World Cup when they stood on the winners’ podium on that emotionally-charged April night at Eden Gardens.


Pollard looks forward to seeing 'recharged Gayle' at T20 WC

Pollard looks forward to seeing ‘recharged Gayle’ at T20 WC

At 42, Chris Gayle is among the oldest player in the competition, while Bravo, 38, is making up for lost time, having not played for West Indies between 2016 and 2020. He is now coming off a successful IPL campaign with Chennai Super Kings, where he was their designated death bowler, bringing to the mix his variations of slower deliveries and dipping yorkers to stifle opponents.

“I think he has shown time and again what he brings to any team,” Pollard said of Bravo. “For Chennai to go on and win was a fabulous team effort, and for him personally to continue doing what he does at the back and to close out matches for teams was superb. There’s no pressure on him, we’re all looking to ‘sir’ to all that in this campaign.”

Gayle, meanwhile, is 97 runs short of becoming the leading run-getter in T20Is. He missed the last stages of the IPL as he left the Punjab Kings set-up owing to bubble fatigue, but Pollard was looking forward to seeing his senior stalwart contribute to another World Cup win.

“No words to describe what he has done for us in the T20 World Cups and in T20 cricket around the world,” Pollard said. “The guy with the most sixes, most runs, the fear he instils in bowlers. The main goal is for him to win the World Cup and he is looking forward to that.

“He did what he did in terms of taking a break. He needed it. This is another big tournament for him. I hope everyone understood the nature of what transpired. Living in bubbles is difficult. If a guy who enjoys himself in any situation can’t take it, it shows how difficult it can be for some of us. We are backing him to do well.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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