We know the new world order now.
Dwayne Bravo’s uncomfortably-catchy debut single summed it up well. West Indies really are champions in every sense – the men, the women and the next generation – but how long will the Caribbean dominance of Twenty20 cricket last? Come the next event, in Australia in 2020, will the West Indians’ still be pumping their hips in celebration? Right now, it seems more than likely.
Cricketers from that part of the world are now born and bred on the white ball. Their Test credentials are withering away like unkept houseplants in the midday sun but in the shorter format they are thriving.
Somehow, against a backdrop of total disharmony between governing body and playing squad, Darren Sammy’s men bulldozed their way to a second World T20 crown. And it was no fluke.
Sure, this team can be flaky – their defeat to Afghanistan in their final group game was slapdash at best – but they can name among their rank 11 matchwinners, all of whom can – on their day – define what their country now stands for in world cricket.
The major obstacle between West Indies and another world title is age. In four years’ time, Chris Gayle with be 40, Sammy will be 36, Bravo 36, Sulieman Benn 38 and many will suggest they are past their prime. But these are men who now live only to play 40 overs on any given day. Yes, the competition is fierce and fast and requires immense strength of character, but these men embody those characteristics perfectly.
You can imagine Gayle, aged 45, still setting himself just outside leg stump, heaving 80mph deliveries over mid-off for six, turning down a quick single to point and standing at slip for 20 minutes in the field.
Sammy is an inspiration to his players and the combination of the all-rounder and Curtly Ambrose in the West Indies dressing room has revolutionised their country’s outlook on the T20 game. Where before the talent was there but the focus was not, now Sammy and Ambrose have blended Calypso, confidence and concentration and the result is a truly potent force.
And even if the stars of today have burned out, their legacy will remain.
The future is bright for West Indies, too, with an Under 19 World Cup victory under their belts this year, while Carlos Brathwaite’s final-over demolition of Ben Stokes in Sunday’s final shows the audacity that’s inherent among this generation of Caribbean cricketers.
Brathwaite may be middle-aged in cricketing circles, but he’s only just burst onto the international scene. At 27, in the short format, he’s got the best part of a decade to make an impact.
No other country deals in hard-hitting all-round pacemen quite like West Indies, either. Alongside Sammy, Brathwaite and Bravo, there’s Andre Russell – who has lit up the Big Bang – and Kieron Pollard, who didn’t even make the squad in India due to injury.
Samuel Badree may be an old dog, at 35, but he has taught the world new tricks this spring with his mixture of discipline and guile in the powerplay overs. He is unlikely to be around for the event Down Under in 2020 but, if Sunil Narine can make his action acceptable for the ICC then West Indies will be able to replace the most potent spinner at this World Cup with the top-ranked spinner in the format in recent years. Hardly a swap to be sniffed at.
From the under 19 set-up, the dual seam threat of Alzarri Joseph and Chemar Holder – borderline unplayable at the World Cup in Bangladesh at times – offer the potential to become an axis similar to that of Ambrose and Courtney Walsh all those years ago.
It is a formidable equation. But can it be beaten?
Given the recent success of the Big Bash, on home turf Australia must be well fancied. Sure, they were unconvincing in India but in familiar conditions, with four more years on domestic dominance beneath them, the likes of Travis Head and Chris Lynn will grow into formidable talismen for this country.
The Aussies must move on from the old guard, who have struggled to transfer dominance over 50 overs into the T20 game. They may be massive for their franchises, but David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch et al have not blended for the national side.
The selectors have already shown a willingness to look at the young success stories of their domestic competition in the shape of Head and Adam Zampa, and that open-mindedness needs to continue.
Eoin Morgan might not be in charge of England in four years’ time but the mindset he has instilled in the current crop of English players will be. Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, David Willey, Reece Topley, Adil Rashid and Chris Jordan will still be in their prime. Ridiculously, Joe Root and Ben Stokes will still be in their 20s.
Only with a proper domestic T20 structure, though, will England be able to cultivate the talent to match the temperament. Only an elite group of players will be picked up by the IPL and Big Bash, and the ECB must make changes to the tired and confused T20 Blast in order to encourage white ball specialists. The framework is in place for ongoing success but the foundations are not.
India’s status as a leading nation in the format is a worry. Virat Kohli can only carry a team by himself for so long, while several of his colleagues will be past their sell-by date in 2020.
Suresh Raina is cooked, MS Dhoni is being hounded about his imminent retirement, Ashish Nehra cannot be asked to continue opening the bowling when he should be applying for a bus pass.
There is undeniable talent in the IPL’s homegrown contingent but its pathway to the international arena appears to have been obstructed.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka need to start afresh, following the departures of Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakarra. They need to discover identities not built solely around one man, while New Zealand showed this year a promise to become a leading light in World T20 cricket.
But, really, T20 champions need good fortune as much as death bowling variations, innovation with the bat and lightning reflexes in the field. And to predict a champion four years in advance is as pointless as a forward defence off the final ball of the innnings.
Right now, West Indies are top dog but there’s a lot of barking going on below their feet.