International Cricket

2024 T20 World Cup – Nicholas Pooran hopes to rekindle ‘special feeling’ of 2012 and 2016

After two disappointing T20 World Cups, where they failed to qualify for the semi-finals in 2021 and progress past the first round in 2022, Nicholas Pooran believes that West Indies are now ready to “redeem” themselves. With this year’s edition being co-hosted by the West Indies, Pooran said that the squad is hungry to rekindle that “special feeling” Daren Sammy’s men had experienced when they won the title in 2012 and 2016.

“Coming back in here after two years, everybody wants to get that special feeling we had when we won those two T20 World Cups,” Pooran told ESPNcricinfo from his home in Trinidad. “I feel like everybody wants that moment again. They want to be a part of that winning feeling. Doing it in front of our fans is even more special.”

Pooran replaced Kieron Pollard as West Indies’ white-ball captain in May 2022, but by November he had stepped down, a decision Cricket West Indies took as part of a review immediately after the 2022 World Cup failure. Rovman Powell leads them now. At the 2022 T20 World Cup, which was played in Australia, West Indies won just one of their three matches in the first round, crashing out as Zimbabwe and Ireland progressed ahead of them.

Pooran, 28, said both him and several members of the current squad have moved on since. “We all have grown as players, as team-mates as well,” he said. “When we played in Australia where we didn’t qualify, everyone was hurt. I resigned [from] captaincy after that as well. Everyone was hurt. But we are no longer that group of guys.

“We all know what’s at stake here. We all know that we have an opportunity to obviously redeem ourselves, make our cricket fans in the Caribbean and our cricket fans all over the world proud of us [and] happy. This time around we are much better players as well. Most of our guys that play franchise cricket, they understand what is needed to be a professional as well.”

Pooran was among half-a-dozen players from West Indies’ World Cup squad of 15 that didn’t feature in the recent three-match T20I series at home against South Africa, which they won 3-0 under the captaincy of Brandon King. The other five players who had missed that series were Andre Russell, Powell, Shimron Hetmyer, Alzarri Joseph and Sherfane Rutherford.

Pooran was impressed with how West Indies, despite the absence of the senior players, were “fighting” to perform and win.

“If you just look at the series we played against South Africa, a few guys were missing, but we were able to win that series 3-nil,” Pooran said. “You saw the performances, you saw that guys are fighting and that’s really important. We may win, we may not win, but what’s more important for me, as a senior player as well, is that we need to give it 100% on and off the field.

“It’s not about us, it’s about our team, 100%. It’s important for me to continue to share that message: that it’s not about me or ourselves. It’s not about us at all. It’s all about what we can do for this team to be successful in the end.”

‘West Indies have numerous match-winners’

While announcing West Indies’ T20 World Cup squad in early May, batting great Desmond Haynes, who is presently the chief selector, pointed out that they were capable of winning the title. Sitting next to Haynes, the head coach Sammy said West Indies had 15 X-factor players. Along with Sammy, this current West Indies unit has two players – Russell and Johnson Charles – who were part of the T20 World Cup triumphs in 2012 and 2016. West Indies are now looking to become the first team to win a T20 World Cup at home.

While Pooran will clearly be one of the key batters in the middle order, West Indies have more firepower with the likes of Powell, Russell, Hetmyer, Rutherford and Shepherd making them one of the most destructive batting line-ups in the tournament. Russell, in particular, comes into this in top form – both with bat and ball – having helped Kolkata Knight Riders win their third IPL title.

Pooran said the presence of Russell, who had returned to the West Indies T20I fold last December after a long hiatus, would no doubt sprinkle positivity across the dressing room. “He’s a winner. He wins T20 games,” Pooran said. “He wins tournaments and whenever you have that experience in the dressing room, it helps a lot, especially in a World Cup. Experience is key.”

West Indies, however, are not just about Russell. Pooran stressed that West Indies had a number of other match-winners.

“We have Rovy [Powell], we have Hetmyer, we have Rutherford, we have Sheppy [Shepherd],” Pooran said. “These guys have been doing brilliantly for themselves and for their franchises and for West Indies in the last 12 months. And I even think that takes a lot of pressure off Russell as well. It definitely takes a lot of pressure off me.”

Pooran cited the example of the third and final T20I against Australia in Perth this February which West Indies won by 37 runs, despite losing wickets in a heap in the early exchanges.

“I remember that last game in Perth. We were struggling, we were probably 70 for 4 [79 for 5],” Pooran recalled, “and we scored 215 [220 for 6]. Russell and Rutherford scored 70 apiece [71 and 67 respectively]. They just tore Australia’s bowling apart. Just to have these guys … makes you not worry that much.

“In saying that, every single individual still has to do their jobs. But the beauty about our team is that we have players that, on their day, they can win a game for you in T20 cricket. That’s what you want. We have numerous match-winners on our team.”

ESPNcricinfo’s full interview with Nicholas Pooran will be published during T20 World Cup

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo

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