“Carlos Brathwaite, Carlos Brathwaite, Remember the Name!” The visual imagery that comes to mind after hearing these words of Ian Bishop, was how the last WT20 encounter between England and West Indies ended.
The two former champions are set to face each other again, on the first matchday of the Super 12 stage in this edition.
The two finalists of the previous edition are certainly familiar foes but have taken different paths since that fabled night in Kolkata.
Despite still being the defending world champions, West Indies haven’t had a good time in the shortest format for almost 3 years. The men in maroon have lost 11 of their last 16 bilateral T20I series.
The absence of Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree hasn’t helped. Age and fitness issues have caught up to their remaining star players. The team has previously played 3T20Is in the UAE and have lost all of them.
Moreover, West Indies got off to a poor start to their campaign by losing both their warm-up matches immediately before the tournament. Andre Russell is recovering from a hamstring injury and his poor form will perhaps be the biggest concern for Phil Simmons and the rest of the Caribbean think-tank. The all-rounder has not had a good time in the UAE since the last IPL season and fans will be hoping he makes amends.
A lot will thus be riding on the shoulders of the two veteran all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and captain Kieron Pollard. Their experience and good numbers in the UAE will be vital, especially against a team of England’s calibre.
Nicholas Pooran got some runs in the warm-ups and he along with the young leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr. will also play a vital role.
Akeal Hosein has been added to the 15-man squad as a replacement for the injured Fabien Allen and his accurate bowling might be very useful against England. Although Hosein is yet to prove himself in T20Is, he ended this year’s CPL with 13 wickets and an economy of 4.93, which shows his potential.
The other finalist of the previous season has seen the opposite side of the coin. Since the heartfelt loss in the final, England have managed to win 12 of their 19 T20I series. Furthermore, they whitewashed Pakistan 0-3 on their last tour to the UAE.
Joss Buttler and Jonny Bairstow had a good time in the IPL in 2020 and there is a very healthy competition going on for a spot in England’s top 4.
Even the world’s number one ranked T20 batsman, Dawid Malan, does not have a certain spot in that top order. Moeen Ali found his form during the IPL 2021 final. Along with that, the versatile Sam Billings played a crucial cameo of 27 off 17 to help England win their second warm-up match and that put him in contention for a spot in the middle order.
However, England think-tank have their fair share of concerns too. Mainstays Joffra Archer, Ben Stokes and Sam Curran are all missing out and the team needs to do their best to not make those absences felt.
Captain Eoin Morgan and Liam Livingstone have been struggling with their form in the UAE. Against West Indies on a relatively fresh Dubai pitch, they’ll need their pacers to step up.
Mark Wood has almost guaranteed his spot in the XI after a 4-fer in the last warm-up match. Tymal Mills, with all his variations, should also be very handy against the aggressive batting line-up. Spin twins, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid will be as important to England’s success as always.
The defending ODI world champions against the defending T20 world champions is certainly going to be a gripping encounter. With the odds in their favour, can England start the tournament with revenge for the WT20 2016 final?