CHAMPIONS West Indies will be without their injured big-hitting middle-order batsman Kieron Pollard for the defence of their ICC World Twenty20 title in Bangladesh next month.
Pollard, one of the biggest names in T20 cricket worldwide, will miss the March 16 to April 6 tournament after he failed to recover from a knee injury he suffered last year.
Like Pollard, fast bowler Kemar Roach was not considered for selection due to continued rehabilitation for a shoulder injury that forced him to return home from the tour of India without playing and which required surgery.
Resurgent Barbadian attacking batsman Dwayne Smith was named yesterday in the West Indies’ 15-member squad to be captained by Darren Sammy, who was also at the helm when the regional side beat hosts Sri Lanka in the final in Colombo in 2012.
Jamaican left-arm seam bowlers Krishmar Santokie and Sheldon Cottrell have both gained selection for their first World T20, but there is no room for the Barbados fast-bowling trio of Jason Holder, Fidel Edwards and Tino Best.
Santokie was the leading bowler in last year’s inaugural Caribbean Premier?League with 16 scalps in representing losing finalists, Guyana Amazon Warriors, while Cottrell captured eight wickets for the Antigua Hawksbills.
Whereas Windward Islands’ pair of Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher have been included, stylish left-handed Trinidadian batsman Darren Bravo has been omitted.
Charles has amassed 425 runs in T20 Internationals at an average of 22.36 while Fletcher has mustered 212 runs in 18 T20 Internationals at an average of 13.25. Bravo’s average is 21.22 from ten T20Is.
Meanwhile, the hard-hitting Chris Gayle, who is also in the side, said he was relishing the prospect of opening the batting with the in-form Smith when West Indies begin their Twenty20 series against Ireland at Sabina Park today.
Gayle has returned to the regional side since an injury in India last November. He is West Indies’ highest run-scorer in T20 Internationals and needs a solitary run to reach the 1 000 mark. After 34 matches, Gayle has amassed 999 runs at an average of 33.30. He is the only West Indian to score a T20 International hundred and also has ten half-centuries.
“This partnership’s a reality,” declared the aggressive Jamaican opener after a training session with his teammates.
“He is in good form and it would be nice to have a Dwayne Smith at the top of your batting order.”
Smith, who has appeared in 17 T20 Internationals, scoring 316 runs at an average of 18.58, was named MVP of the just ended NAGICO Super50 tournament on the heels of outstanding performances for his former Indian Premier League (IPL) team Mumbai Indians during last year’s IPL and the Champions League T20.
The prospect of Gayle and Smith opening for West Indies is expected to be a major appeal for regional fans.
“He can get the pressure off you. His form is spot on and we’re all happy to have him back. It would give me room to bat a bit more freely,” Gayle said.
Meantime, the big left-hander said he was “99 per cent” fit and ready to take on Ireland.
“As everyone knows, I had an injury last year but I have done my work and I’m happy to be back in the set-up . . . . It’s good to be back again and I’m looking forward to the first game and getting that feeling back out there in the middle again.
“I haven’t trained this intensely for a couple months so I hope to get a kickstart and get back into the groove of things as soon as possible.”
The second match is Friday. First ball is 2 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern Caribbean Time).
World Twenty20: Darren Sammy (captain), Samuel Badree, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Sheldon Cottrell, Andre Fletcher, Christopher Gayle, Sunil Narine, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Krishmar Santokie, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith.
Team management unit: Ottis Gibson (head coach), Richie Richardson (team operations manager), Stuart Williams (assistant coach), Andre Coley (assistant coach), Saqlain Mushtaq (assistant coach), C.J. Clark (physiotherapist), Hector Martinez Charles (strength and conditioning coordinator), Richard Berridge (video and statistical analyst), Virgil Browne (massage therapist), Philip Spooner (media relations manager).