Pollard's experience will benefit a 'very talented' West Indies team at T20 WC, believes Lara
Pollard became the first cricketer to play 500 T20 games when he took the field in first of the two T20Is against Sri Lanka last week. Lara marvelled at the West Indies' limited-overs captain's achievement, and pinpointed his abilities as a leader which he feels will be crucial to the team's success in the near future.
"It's a tremendous achievement first of all to play so much T20 games, it's unbelievable," Lara told ESPNcricinfo. "Kieron Pollard has been around for quite some time. I remember his first game was 2007 for the World Cup. Obviously, he's played a lot of franchise cricket around the world and I think the experience he has gained under different captains…he has captained teams in franchise cricket around the world, he brings a lot of experience.
"What he also has is cohesiveness in the bunch of players that he is in charge of. I think everyone respects him, which is important and he has a very good head on his shoulder. [He's a] fair guy as well so I expect him to do very well for West Indies and I expect everyone to rally [around him]. The most important thing is a captain is as good as his team, and if he has support from his team - and a very talented team at that, especially in the T20 version of the game - I think he's going to get the best out of them."
As for the other established T20 greats in Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, who alongside Pollard are the only players to have played more than 400 games, Lara feels that their performances in the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League will play a key role in determining their selection to the West Indies squad for the T20 World Cup. Bravo had recently made a comeback to the West Indies team for the home series against Ireland, while Gayle's last international appearance dates back to August 2019.
"I think the IPL is going to be a huge point or signal for who is actually going to carry on," said Lara, who himself featured in five 50-over World Cups for West Indies. "It's still going to be five months after the IPL for the World Cup. Fitness levels are very important, but a gruesome tournament like the IPL is going to tell the West Indies selectors who are the players that they really need going into the last four months of preparation for the World Cup."
West Indies are the only team to have won two T20 World Cup titles, in 2012 and 2016, and Lara further stated that Pollard-led side, with the quality of power-packed players in their ranks, will once again be a team to beat in the upcoming edition in Australia.
I don't think we are going to be dark horses in the World Cup. I think everybody is going to look at the West Indies as the team to beat.
"Later in the year for the T20 World Cup I feel the kind of squad that we have - Hetmyer, Pooran, Pollard himself, Dwayne Bravo, I see Andre Russell is back, [Evin] Lewis, I think we've got a group of players in which anyone or two or three of them can turn things on and beat the best in the world at what they do. I think we've got a great chance and my biggest worry is that every other team will be worrying about the West Indies, and they're going to put their best foot against the West Indies. And I hope that the guys are up for the challenge.
"I don't think we are going to be dark horses in the World Cup. I think everybody is going to look at the West Indies as the team to beat."