T20 leagues have benefited from West Indian talents and vice versa, says Ian Bishop

Commentator and former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop talks about the team's chances at the World Cup, and the influence T20 leagues have on Caribbean cricket and vice versa.

A tournament favourite: The West Indies may have an advantage over other teams owing to experience, but its sharpness on the fitness front may be crucial to its run in the T20 World Cup as well, says Bishop. - AP

The West Indies, the two-time Twenty20 world champion, beat Australia by 16 runs in the fifth Twenty20 International (T20I) at Darren Sammy Stadium in St Lucia on Saturday to win the series 4-1. During the white-ball series, Chris Gayle became the first player to score 14,000 T20 runs while Hayden Walsh Jr capped off a memorable outing with 12 wickets at an economy rate of 7.00. Its bowlers took quick wickets and the batsmen put on an exhibition of power-hitting as West Indies sent out a warning to rivals ahead of this year’s T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop, who was in St Lucia to commentate on the T20Is, talks about the the team's chances at the World Cup, and the influence T20 leagues have on Caribbean cricket and vice versa.

Edited excerpts

Q. It’s a power-packed West Indian T20 team, and a number of players are in the twilight of their careers. Does this make them a more dangerous team in a tournament as compared to in a bilateral series?

A. I am not sure how much more formidable or dangerous the West Indies will be just because they will be playing in a tournament format. They are already a very experienced team. With that comes calmness and match situation knowhow that younger teams may lack. But it could also mean other things like them having to really manage fitness and agility.

The West Indies are the first nation to lift the World T20 title twice. Would you call them the finest team in T20I history?

It’s hard to qualify who is the best team when you are having to compare international and franchise cricket altogether. Some of the same West Indies players have also helped make some of the top franchise teams successful. So, to me, those comparisons are odious. The West Indies have won the ICC T20 World Cup twice. No other team has done it yet, so their place in history is indisputable until someone else achieves more.

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Do you feel the Caribbean bowlers have been comparatively overshadowed by the belligerence of their batting colleagues in the T20s? Are there any bowlers in particular that you are looking forward to seeing at the World T20?

Batsmen generally in T20s get more of the plaudits. It’s no different in the Caribbean. But players like Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree have ensured that the bowlers have had some of the spotlight. The bowling group have been as integral to two World Cup wins as the batters, if not more so. Obed McCoy is one young seamer that will be interesting to watch at the World Cup if he makes the trip.

Kieron Pollard and Gayle. How important are these two men going to be for the West Indies come October?

We need to wait to see how selection goes before start discussing both Pollard and Gayle at the World Cup. More so in the case of Gayle. So I’d prefer not to jump the gun. But Gayle around the team adds a great deal of experience. If he can find enough good form to be selected, he will be an asset to the team.

Given the number of West Indians playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL), would you say this year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE is no longer taking place in foreign conditions?

Of course, conditions in the UAE will be familiar to several players, whether it was because of the IPL or T10 tournaments played there in recent times. But it still takes adapting. Plus, there will be one or two other venues that will be a novelty for most players.

Experiences in T20 leagues have almost been a T20 finishing school for West Indies' cricketers, says Ian Bishop.   -  GETTY IMAGES


How much of the West Indies’ T20 success is down to the fact that a lot of the cricketers are playing for different domestic teams around the world?

Playing in other leagues worldwide has benefited the West Indies players significantly. It has allowed them to gain valuable experience playing against different players, grounds and crowds. These experiences in these leagues have almost been a T20 finishing school and allowed for the polishing of these wonderful talents. However, it must be remembered that these leagues have benefited from these wonderful West Indian talents honed in the Caribbean. Quid pro quo.

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Is there a parallel between county cricket benefiting the West Indian Test team in the 1970s and ’80s, and T20 leagues helping in its success now?

In a sense, the experience has been parallel to the era when a lot of West Indians went to the U.K. to play on the county circuit. That helped to fine-tune and grow many West Indian cricketers. The counties benefited from these players, too. Now, it’s perhaps the same scenario with West Indians in the myriad T20 leagues.

Do you feel the T20 format has contributed to cricket becoming more attractive for young athletes in the Caribbean?

I believe that T20 cricket across the globe has been able to attract a newer or different audience. The financial rewards and the concise time of a game have definitely made it more amenable to young fans. So many kids now love the various shots and action of fast-paced cricket. It’s a game suited to the times we live in and perhaps versions of it will become even more mainstream in years to come.

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