Wind in sail, islanders make their presence felt

Bangalore, April 10 -- They are a small but diverse group in this Indian domestic Twenty20 league, these West Indians. While Chris Gayle can easily intimidate you with his huge frame and summon enormous power to send the ball out of the park, plucking catches out of thin air comes as easy to Kieron Pollard as an afternoon walk in an apple orchard.

And, if Sunil Narine likes to give out a slight chuckle every time he sends batsmen in a spin with his mysterious knuckle balls, Dwayne Bravo likes to break into a jig after completing a catch in the deep. They know their fashion and can give any American rapper a run for his gold accessories. But, over and above everything, they are superb athletes and enjoy their cricket. This tournament would have certainly been poorer had it not been for the Caribbean cricketers.

Turning point

Thursday's match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore pits two of the finest of this breed against each other -- Gayle and Narine. But, there has also been the unheralded Kevon Cooper who has worked wonders for Rajasthan Royals with his medium pace.

A big reason behind this sudden surge of West Indians in this tournament is also their World Twenty20 win last year. Six months after reversing their dipping cricketing fortunes with a facile win over Sri Lanka, the West Indies are slowly clawing back. Success in Tests and even One-day Internationals is still some work away. But they have surely made a point with their first success on the world stage since 1975.

"They have gained a lot of confidence after the Twenty20 World Cup win," said KKR captain Gautam Gambhir. "Someone told me a couple of days back that the first four Man-of-the-Match winners were all West Indians. That tells you something," said Gambhir. That confidence has also rubbed off on the teams who are slowly opting for more West Indians. This domestic league has as many as 11 from the World T20 winning West Indies squad contracted with eight teams.

The Kings XI Punjab are the only team not to have a West Indian player on board, while Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore have three each in their squad. While Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo have always been hot picks, their T20 success has made an impact on this year's February auctions, where as many as four new West Indians went under the hammer -- Darren Sammy, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and Christopher Barnwell -- a sizeable jump from the earlier editions. Narine was last year's standout player after being picked from nowhere.

There surely will be more like Narine. This league so far has been one big showcase of the West Indians' ability. If the early matches are an indication, buckle up for one hell of a ride.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.


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