West Indies begin their 2020 with their white ball cricket firmly focused in one direction – appropriately, towards T20 cricket. The T20 World Cup in Australia is clearly the most important contest they will be involved with this year. You’d expect the shortest international format to be prioritised accordingly, in terms of rotation, resources, and in the minds of the players. Kieron Pollard has an exciting group of players who could do plenty, with the right guidance and expertise.
However, there is still work to do in the other formats. The Test team have important and challenging series’ against South Africa (at home) and England (away from home), in a time of transition and rebuilding that needs to start yielding results.
Yet it’s in the ODI format – the lowest profile in the 12 months ahead, you’d suggest – that the Windies have the biggest opportunity to mould a side in whichever image they see fit. The core of white ball cricketers they have grown through the domestic system, and the Caribbean Premier League, is versatile and ready to take the step up. The three-match ODI series against Ireland, starting this week, represents a fantastic chance for players on the periphery of the set-up to make the leap to the forefront of the selectors’ minds.
No player is more ready for that step up than Khary Pierre.
Spin has not been West Indies’ friend in recent ODI seasons, as they have looked around for different options and different roles. They haven’t been able to nail either role, in truth – they have had the second worst strike rate of any ODI spin unit in the last two years, and the third worst economy rate. It’s the area of the side which most obviously requires improvement if the Caribbean side are to take a step up.
Pierre is more of a containing spinner than an attacking one, and the Windies are aware of this – having played two ODIs already, it’s clear they know his best role. In domestic cricket, Pierre has a very tidy economy of just 4.64rpo, and has never gone at over 5rpo in a Super50 season. He’s an excellent option for a Windies team packed with ultra-attacking seamers, and being able to maintain a lower scoring rate in the middle overs could well improve the effectiveness of those seamers, at the top and tail.
His economy could be a natural consequence of his brisk bowling speed. An average speed of 89kph, and with 64% of his deliveries being faster than that, is evidence of how he darts the ball through. An average deviation of just 2.1 degrees is enough to beat the bat – and maintain threat – but is not vast, and also points to him refusing to throw the ball up and put revolutions on the ball. He knows his strength, that fast arm and skid off the surface, and he uses it to great effect.
He has only played two ODIs so far, finding his feet in international cricket slowly but surely. With the experience he will no doubt get in the T20I fixtures to be played over the next few months, he’s well poised to develop into a significant player in both Windies white ball teams. The Ireland series will be a chance for him to establish himself in the team against a batting line-up predominantly made up of right-handers, away from whom Pierre naturally turns the ball. The opportunity couldn’t be better placed for Pierre right now – and he’ll be desperate to grab it with both hands. (CWI)