Important roles for Paul, Shepherd in WI pursuit of T20 success

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By Akeem Greene

West Indies’ road to the World T20 title defence continues next year in India and the next stop will be three T20 Internationals against New Zealand from November 27-30.

Some of the big names for the Caribbean side in T20 cricket are missing for varying reasons, which gives ample opportunities to developing talents to improve on their craft.

One in particular is all-rounder Keemo Paul, who since making his T20I debut in 2018, has become a key player in the team, particularly with his box of tricks in the ‘death’ overs.

Paul played his first T20 in August 2017 and since then has played 60 T20 matches, of which 18 are Internationals for West Indies.

He has picked up lucrative contracts in the Indian Premier League, Big Bash League and the Caribbean Premier League.

In this current squad, Paul arguably become Kieron Pollard’s best option at the ‘death’ and according to Head Coach Phil Simmons, it is about each player understanding and executing his role.

“Keemo is as important as everyone else; it is a case where everyone we are selecting is important to how the wheel rolls. We are trying to make sure everyone understands their role and Keemo has his role in the team,” Simmons said on Tuesday.

“As you say, he is one of the better ‘death’ bowlers, but Keemo can also hit the ball [and is a] brilliant fielder. Each one has their role, and Keemo has his role and it is important he continues to play his role whenever he gets that opportunity.”

Simmons also alluded to Romario Shepherd and his expectations of the all-rounder to produce similar or ideally better than he does for Guyana Amazon Warriors.

Shepherd, who is now finding his feet at international cricket, was initially not a part of the T20 squad, but was drafted when Dwayne Bravo pulled out due to injury.

“He is one of the players who has done well for Guyana in CPL especially and he bowls well at the top. He is one of the better ‘death’ bowlers in the Caribbean and that is the kind of role he will have to play in this team,” Simmons said of Shepherd.

The 26-year-old, who has a slingy action, has bowled in 19 innings for the Amazon Warriors, taking 23 wickets at an average of 20.6 and an economy rate of 8.1.

With the bat, he has only made 89 runs, but packs a punch as a lower-order batsman with a strike rate of 158.9.

“We have seen him hit the ball a few times but we hope in this team, he does not get that opportunity too often. With the ball, it is about the same things he does for Guyana Amazon [Warriors], making sure he bowls well at the top and at the ‘death’. He needs to continue working on that and making sure he is one of the best in the world.”

Though West Indies are two-time World T20 champions, they languish ninth on the rankings, and according to Simmons, it is important they start winning series and be consistent outside of these major tournaments.

West Indies T20 Squad: Kieron Pollard (captain), Fabian Allen, Sheldon Cottrell, Andre Fletcher, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Keemo Paul, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr. and Kesrick Williams.

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