The West Indies might be World T20 champions but the team has not been keeping well for a while. They are currently on a three-series losing streak and have only won two series in total since 2018. One of them was a single game affair against ICC World XI while the other one came against Bangladesh.
Very recently, they were drubbed 2-1 by Afghanistan in a series that took place in Lucknow. And now their next assignment is against Virat Kohli's India, which has proven to be an all-conquering unit. The tour would begin with a three-match T20I series followed by an ODI contest.
The Men in Blue have been victorious in six series out of 10 since 2018, two ended in a draw while defeats came in only two of them. Just in August, West Indies were handed a 3-0 series sweep at home by the Indian side. However, the Kieron Pollard-led side could not have picked a better time to take on the hosts.
With two back-to-back T20 World Cups lurking, India have been in experimentation mode. The hunt is on for the best short-format players and their suitable backups as Kohli continues to chase an ICC trophy. They registered a narrow 2-1 series win against Bangladesh in their last T20I assignment while the three-match South Africa series ended in a 1-1 draw with the first game being washed out due to rain.
Yet, facing India in their own backyard remains a daunting task but young West Indian youngster Sherfane Rutherford is ready for the challenge. The explosive middle-order batsman is part of the T20I squad.
"I am happy to get the opportunity. Preparations have been coming along well. We had a lot of time to train and to get some work done. So over the past few days we have been putting in some hard work and are looking forward to giving our best against India," said Rutherford who was hosted with teammates Nicholas Pooran and Evin Lewis by Total Sports and Fitness Store, Korum Mall in Thane.
"Most of the Indian pitches are good wickets to bat on. We have been working on adapting to the pitches so we can improve our game."
There were reports of veteran Dwanye Bravo returning to the international fold for India tour but that has not materialised while 'Universal Boss' Chris Gayle has also opted to give the tour a miss. The absence of the big stars has left the West Indies squad a little light on experience but that's not how the youngsters in the squad view it.
"Chris Gayle is not here but that gives somebody the opportunity to showcase their talent. That’s how the game goes. When the big players are not in, it is time for the younger players to step up and give their best," said Rutherford.
They might be missing Bravo and Gayle but another T20 superstar Kieron Pollard has recently been given the charge of the side in the shorter formats. And Rutherford was full of praise for the 32-year-old.
"KP (Kieron Pollard) is such a cool leader. He's somebody you can talk to. Someone who would listen to you always. Brings different energy to training sessions and the guys look up to him."
Pollard, however, had a mix start to his captaincy career. While West Indies clinched the ODI series against Afghanistan 3-0, they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat in the T20I affair. Rutherford, who was part of that series, had no hesitation in admitting that his team was "outplayed" in the series and stressed that the current focus of the side is on improving on a consistent basis instead of aiming for larger things like the World Cup or IPL.
"T20 World Cup is a while from now but every series, we will look to take something out of it. We look to give our best and take it one step at a time...I don't think players are thinking too much about the World Cup or IPL, it's just about performance and everything else will follow from there."
The 21-year-old explosive batsman has only featured in three T20Is for his team but has the experience of playing in cut-throat T20 leagues like IPL, CPL and T10 league. Managing private league assignments with international duty could take a toll on any player. Only recently, Gayle took a rest from cricket to "reflect" on his career after a string of poor scores in Mzansi Super League but Rutherford is in complete support of franchise cricket and sees it as an opportunity to secure the future.
"I think franchise cricket is good because not everyone might play for the West Indies or for their countries. So, I think franchise cricket helps a lot of players, especially players that cannot make it to the national team. I don't see any problems with franchise cricket. May be sometimes it gets a bit frustrating as you may not stay as free as you want to but I think it's good and in everything you have to make sacrifices."
Rutherford also shared his delight over West Indies' nine-wicket win over Afghanistan in the one-off Test series and had a word of praise for spinner Rakheem Cornwall who took 10 wickets in the match.
"It had been a while since we won a series. Of late, the guys have been putting in some hard work and it's now paying off. It's only good for the West Indies and even for the fans, people who support us."
"He's (Cornwall) been knocking on the door for West Indies for quite a while and when the opportunity presented itself, he showed that he's good enough to play international cricket."
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