Two-time World T20 champions West Indies will look to challenge Afghanistan’s might in a format where their batters are habitual of scoring big strikes and mighty runs as the 3-match T20 series between Afghanistan vs West indies begins at the Ekana stadium in Lucknow on November 14.
Having hit a patch of consistent all-round cricket, exemplified by the victorious ODI series whitewashing of Afghanistan, Kieron Pollard would be keen to replicate his ODI success in a format where the West Indies have often made headlines and entertained fans putting them to the edge of their seats.
Yet, at the same time, Pollard would be cautious to avoid complacency and would ask his men to stay determined and focused as a fresh format promises the possibility of many a surprise.
Rashid Khan, meanwhile, would want nothing more than his set of talents to hit back at a side that has contributed to their ignominy; of having lost 12 ODIs on the trot.
Yet, at the same time, Afghanistan would be wary of West Indies’ current menacing form and will be keen to bounce back in the briefest format.
The West Indies vs Afghanistan T20 series promises a lot of excitement and leaves a lot of scopes to witness a brand of enterprising and free-spirited cricket. The last that the two teams met one another was nearly three years back when at the back of a Marlon Samuels’ special, the Windies were able to tackle Afghanistan’s challenging total of 146.
That said, what are the interesting things to look forward to in the West Indies vs Afghanistan T20 series?
A revival of fortunes for Rashid Khan?
It’s not always that one sees Rashid Khan struggling for wickets. On top of it, it hardly ever happens that the talismanic leg-break specialist goes for a few runs.
What one’s accustomed to seeing are bouts of frequent celebrations marked by broad smiles.
But in the recently-concluded ODIs, Khan went for a cumulative 144 runs (in all) and was able to claim only two wickets. So clearly, if there’s an area for vast improvement from Rashid’s perspective, then it’s his wicket-taking nack.
The key to Afghanistan’s success would be to see their best spinner, and now captain leading the side with much success. Will the West Indian batsmen are able to dictate terms against Khan’s googlies- we will have to wait and watch.
Kieron Pollard’s leadership up for a test
For the longest time, Pollard has been one of the most resourceful and potent weapons in the Caribbean armory in the T20 format. But never before has Pollard led the side in a format where his team has claimed the globe-trotting success.
One reckons, if there’s a massive occasion in the experienced Trinidad’s career, then it is now; leading the West Indies to a possible T20 series triumph against a side he only recently belted in the 50-over games.
But for the West Indies to experience something enterprising from Pollard, it’ll have to be more than the right-hander’s mighty hoists and big heaves over mid-wicket and long-on but rather through wisdom delivered through focused leadership.
So can Pollard inspire a young crop to counter Afghanistan’s challenging spin-attack? While we will have to wait for answers, one thing is clear. The West Indies will be desperate to improve their woeful recent fortunes in T20 cricket, where they have lost 17 of the last 20 games.
Opportunity for Lendl Simmons to make a contribution
Quite frankly, one doesn’t quite remember when Lendl Simmons last played an international game. Although, a quick scroll through numbers suggests that the last he featured in a T20 international for the West Indies was well over two years ago. Interestingly, it was in a contest against Afghanistan, the side against whom he marks an international return at the age of 34.
Clearly, under new coach Phil Simmons and the new administration in power, the selectors have banked upon some useful T20 experience, one that is expected to bolster some power to a line-up that features Pollard and Lewis.
Simmons’ strike rate of 116 and 907 T20 international runs offer some confidence in his ability. But it remains to be seen as to what he can bring to the side in the 3-game West Indies vs Afghanistan T20 series.
Can Afghanistan’s experienced crop turn match-winners
Afghanistan, fresh from a West Indian onslaught that denied them any chance of a victory would be keen to bounce back. In doing so, they would draw inspiration from the fact that in the sport’s briefest format, they are ranked much better than their T20 opponents; West Indies is a team ranked two places lower than Afghanistan.
Moreover, in renowned talents like Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, and Asghar Afghan, the team has a combined experience of 177 T20 internationals. Implicit in this experience are nearly 2,500 runs and around 150 international wickets.
That’s some experience for a side that doesn’t boast of playing too many T20s throughout the year.
The key perspective for Rashid’s men in the West Indies vs Afghanistan T20 series would be the experienced crop of the unit coming together to make a difference.
Can they make it count and hit back at Pollard’s team?
Onus on Evin Lewis to deliver
In the absence of Universe Boss Chris Gayle, quite clearly among the biggest entertainers in World Cricket’s T20 format, the onus will be on Lewis to deliver for his side.
An attacking opener, Evin Lewis is no stranger to breaking into an early spell of executing muscular pulls and powerful punches off the back foot.
Once he gets going, he turns out to be a difficult man to dislodge from the crease. But there’s also a chink in his armor. Lewis, a proven talent against medium pace, struggles against spin.
One found clear evidence of Lewis’ predicament in the recent ODI series where barring an uncharacteristically slow fifty, there wasn’t much that the big-hitting leftie was able to offer.
An inability to maneuver the ball amplified by his weakness to read the spin saw the Trinidadian pull needless pressure on himself. In a T20, where there’s no luxury of settling down given the paucity of the game’s duration, Lewis will be expected to deliver from the ball go. That the white-ball will most likely be in Mujeeb’s hand, Lewis’ tormenter in the past, won’t make the batsman’s life any easy.