'Not defending champions anymore': Windies T20 slide

The West Indies thumped Australia in a five-match series last year but have since lost to India twice, Pakistan and New Zealand and need to first qualify to make it to the T20 World Cup main draw

Those who watched the pummelling the West Indies handed out to Australia in a five-game T20 series last year might well be wondering: what happened?

On the small Caribbean island of St Lucia, an Aussie T20 outfit, admittedly weakened by notable absentees but still featuring soon-to-be World Cup winners Aaron Finch, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa, were summarily dismantled by the vastly experienced Windies.

The Windies won four of the five matches and would have made it a clean sweep if not for a nerveless Mitchell Starc final over in the dead-rubber fourth match to Andre Russell, who otherwise had his way with the visitors in the series.

So it is a reasonable question: how, a little over 12 months later, have they arrived in Australia not a certain starter for the main stage of a tournament they've won twice before?

Their relegation into the pool of teams featuring in the first-round qualifier event was in fact sealed during their faltering World Cup campaign last year when, as fate would have it, Australia turned the tables and flogged them in their final group-stage game.

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Significantly, that left the Windies in 10th spot on the International Cricket Council's T20I team rankings.

Only the winner and runner-up from last year's Cup final (Australia and New Zealand) plus the next six highest-ranked teams earned automatic qualification for the Super 12s stage of the 2022 event at the cut-off date of November 15, 2021.

It has left them needing to finish in the top half of Group A (also featuring Ireland, Scotland and Zimbabwe) in the eight-team qualifier event beginning October 16 to make the main draw.

A top-placed finish will put them in the same group as Australia, who the Windies this week face in a two-T20I Dettol series in Queensland.

Three players (Johnson Charles, Jason Holder and Evin Lewis) remain in the Windies squad from when they lifted the World T20 trophy in 2016, but fresh-faced skipper Nicholas Pooran is not setting much store in past glories.

"It's a new generation for us," Pooran told reporters on the Gold Coast ahead of Wednesday's first T20I. "The majority of the guys, this is their first World Cup.

"We're not coming here as the defending champions anymore.

"We obviously had a bad World Cup last year. Starting from the bottom, we have to obviously take the harder road first, which is qualifiers and is our number one priority at the moment.

The Windies outfit that trained as a complete unit on Tuesday (in stark contrast to the handful of players who showed up to the home side's optional session earlier in the day) will be virtually unrecognisable for most Australian fans.

There was no Andre Russell, the feared allrounder who the Windies have "decided to move on" from according to selector Desmond Haynes, and no Sunil Narine, the mystery spinner who Haynes has suggested was "not interested" in the World Cup.

The spinners who mystified the Aussies during that series in St Lucia last year – Hayden Walsh and Fabian Allen – have fallen out of favour, while veterans Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard have all since retired.

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A further absentee is Shimron Hetmyer, the side's second most credentialled batter behind Pooran, who was sensationally dumped from the squad on Tuesday in mysterious circumstances, having failed to board his flight from Guyana.

Pooran offered no further detail when asked on Tuesday: "I just (don't) want to give the media anything. A decision has been made. There's consequences, for your actions.

"We planned (to play) with him but unfortunately he's not here and we have to plan differently now."

Hetmyer's replacement Shamarh Brooks is also yet to arrive down under.

Of those who have arrived in Australia, nearly half are likely to be still feeling the effects of jetlag; seven players who were involved in Saturday's Caribbean Premier League final in Guyana have only touched down late on Monday evening following a marathon series of flights via New York and Dubai.

But Pooran is hopeful the squad's spirit will be able to lift them and ensure their World Cup campaign does not get derailed from the outset like it did last year.

While the going has been tough with the Windies' new-look T20 side since that campaign, losing series to India (twice), Pakistan and New Zealand, the side's skipper insisted morale remains high. 

"We understand that we don’t have as much experience in the room," said Pooran.

"But we have been playing cricket together for the entire year, so we do understand each other a little better now.

"The culture is just all about love, being a family, actually looking out for each other and being in this together.

"This entire year, we have been through ups and downs. We've been all over the world. We've been losing cricket games, we have been winning games and we have been we have been performing as a group.

"We have stuck together and we are here today and we're here to fight again."

Men's Dettol T20I Series v West Indies

Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Pat Cummins, Tim David, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Daniel Sams, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa

Wednesday Oct 5: Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast, 6:10pm

Friday Oct 7: The Gabba, Brisbane, 6:10pm

Buy #AUSvWI T20 tickets here