But such time-zone gallivanting is the way of the modern touring world. Two distinct England squads, with ever fewer cross-over characters certain of a place in both set-ups, are spreading themselves across the globe, to cover off the myriad bilateral obligations that keep the creaking jalopy of international cricket on the road.
And in that respect, let no-one be under any illusions how important this particular series is. The ECB dropped a clanger in October last year, when they unilaterally bailed out of their goodwill stop-over in Pakistan – a two-match tour that should have been their first to the country since 2005, and had been arranged to say thank you for the PCB’s efforts in ensuring that the Covid-stricken summer of 2020 went ahead without a hitch.
The same and more applies to this campaign. Before Pakistan’s arrival that summer, West Indies were the first touring team to brave the restrictions of the bio-secure lifestyle, and as a reward for their over-and-above efforts to mitigate the ECB’s multi-million-pound losses, it was agreed last March that this tour would be extended from three T20Is to five, and from two Tests to three.
The timing is ironic, in a week when the ECB have been hinting at the need for quality over quantity to improve their Test fortunes in particular. But for now, the money in international cricket talks loudest and, at this crucial post-Covid juncture, so too does the goodwill.
The need to balance England’s ambitions across formats was an enduring theme in 2021, particularly through the thorny issue of rest and rotation, and while it was perfectly justifiable to give Eoin Morgan’s men every chance to cement their status with a second global trophy, hindsight has blown a big fat raspberry at the ECB’s attempts to compete on two fronts.
Far from being a competition to match the rollercoaster of 2019, the World Cup just gone was an anti-competitive turkey, too readily dominated by correct calls at the toss, and too easily forgettable in its squeezed window between the IPL and the Ashes. England showed their prowess in snatches – most particularly in an against-the-head win over Sri Lanka in Sharjah, and a group-stage thrashing of the eventual champions Australia – but for all the jeopardy that that campaign entailed, they’d have been better off playing heads-or-tails at the pre-tournament dinner than actually planning a coherent strategy.
West Indies’ campaign culminated in four defeats out of five, the exception being a gutsy defence against Bangladesh, and it confirmed the passing of an epoch-defining generation, with the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Lendl Simmons and Ravi Rampaul all potentially saying their farewells – and so too the inestimable Chris Gayle of course, although he will surely never officially quit.
For England, however, this is a chance to take stock after the disappointments of the winter. Given the success of their own batters in the BBL, there’s no reason to think they won’t once again be among the favourites come the next World Cup in November. But as their opponents inadvertently demonstrated in the tournament just gone, a failure to evolve can catch even the most groundbreaking outfits on the hop. Morgan, in particular, may find himself chewing over that particular point with vigour.
West Indies LLLLL (most recent first)
In the spotlight
There are a number of marginal calls for West Indies to make as senior players return having missed the 3-0 defeat in Pakistan. Kyle Mayers opened ahead of Shai Hope in West Indies’ practice match and may get the nod to partner Brandon King. Fabian Allen has recovered from Covid-19 and is likely to start in the lower-middle order.
West Indies (possible): 1 Brandon King, 2 Kyle Mayers, 3 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 4 Roston Chase, 5 Kieron Pollard (capt), 6 Rovman Powell/Jason Holder, 7 Fabian Allen, 8 Odean Smith, 9 Dominic Drakes/Romario Shepherd, 10 Akeal Hosein/Hayden Walsh Jr, 11 Sheldon Cottrell
England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Tom Banton (wk), 3 James Vince, 4 Moeen Ali, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Phil Salt (wk), 7 Liam Dawson/George Garton, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Tymal Mills, 11 Saqib Mahmood
Pitch and conditions
Kensington Oval will be limited to 50% capacity, due to Covid restrictions, but administrators are anticipating good crowds throughout the five-match series. There has not been much T20 cricket played there of late but scores were surprisingly low there during the 2019 CPL, with only one team breaching the 150 mark in the five games the ground hosted. The forecast suggests that cross-winds could be a factor, and there is a small chance of a rain interruption at some stage in the run chase.
Stats and trivia
- This will be the first time that Barbados has hosted international cricket since becoming a republic, in November last year.
- England have won four and lost two of their six previous T20Is in Barbados, although their record against West Indies at the venue is played three, lost two.
- Both of those defeats came in the 2-1 series loss in March 2014, which is perhaps best remembered for the broken wrist that Ben Stokes sustained after punching his locker door.
- In better Barbados memories, Bridgetown is also the venue for England’s World T20 final victory over Australia in 2010, their first piece of global silverware.
- Morgan is England’s sole survivor from the victorious XI, although Salt – then aged 13 – was an onlooker in the stands that day.
“In Pakistan, yes we lost the three games but there was a lot more energy, a lot more enthusiasm and that’s the group that’s coming into this series here against England. We have a lot of new faces and a lot of guys who want to make an impression and be part of the team going forward, so I think from that point of view it is not as difficult as it would seem.”
West Indies’ coach, Phil Simmons believes his side has plenty room for improvement.
“We’ve got some gun players. There are some players in training that have impressed so much. You’ve seen what Banton can do, he’s an incredible talent, a young talent and will be learning a hell of a lot.”
Jason Roy has high expectations from one of his potential opening partners.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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