No one should have been surprised by the West Indies’ departure from the quarterfinals of the Cricket World Cup on Wednesday. Ranked eighth on the International Cricket Council’s one-day internationals table, they fully justified their lowly position in world cricket. The manner of their going, however, has aroused widespread disgust and anger, as they capitulated to a resurgent Pakistan by the massive margin of 10 wickets. As to whether the players feel as humiliated as the cricket-loving Caribbean public, well, that is a moot point.
No matter that the West Indies righted what they perceived to be a grave injustice by thrashing Bangladesh in the preliminary round to reclaim eighth position in the rankings and that they notched up almost clinical victories over non-Test playing Ireland and the Netherlands. They only flattered to deceive. For when they came up against the big boys, they fell woefully short. Given their disgracefully abject performance against Pakistan and their ‘choking’ against England and India, when seemingly well set for victory, their collective lack of fighting spirit and cricketing nous would suggest that their hold on eighth position is tenuous at best.
Before the tournament even began, only the most blindly optimistic West Indian fan would have backed this team to go all the way. After the first unsuccessful foray against South Africa, the West Indies’ tactical shortcomings, technical flaws and mental frailty were glaringly obvious.
It is a matter of record that in every game against the higher ranked teams, the West Indies batting imploded with catastrophic results. Against South Africa, they lost their last five wickets for the addition of 13 runs. In the up-and-down tussle with England, seemingly uncomfortable whenever they held the upper hand, they lost wickets in clusters until, in a misplaced burst of generosity, they gifted the Englishmen their last four in exchange for a paltry three runs. Then, when they were looking set to beat India, they threw it all away, losing their last eight wickets for 34 runs. Even against Ireland, they contrived to lose their last six wickets for 55 runs and their last four for only eight. Such performances were not accidental; they conformed to a pattern and indicated a side variously short of form, technique, ability, self-belief and in some cases, basic common sense.
This World Cup campaign will have served to settle a few issues though. Chris Gayle is a one-dimensional batsman who seems to have convinced most of the others that the best approach is ‘when in doubt, hit out.’ How else to explain the manic approach that led to the panic against England? Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s best days appear to be, sadly, behind them. Kieron Pollard may be regarded by some to be a talented cricketer, but he is yet to convince most knowledgeable observers that he is no more than a bully of inferior bowling and is suited to anything longer than a T20 bash. Devon Thomas should not even have been in the team, neither for his keeping nor for his patently inadequate batting. But that is not his fault; the selectors’ myopia – and that is putting it diplomatically – in naming him as a reserve instead of Denesh Ramdin is to blame. Suleiman Benn has to be one of the sloppiest and most indisciplined cricketers ever to wear the West Indian maroon. Nikita Miller – why was he picked in the first place? And poor Darren Sammy, for all his wholeheartedness, is nothing but a bits and pieces cricketer whose presence weakens both the bowling and batting of an already weak team.
Granted there were a few bright spots. Kemar Roach is developing into a thoroughbred of a fast bowler. If handled well, he should have an outstanding career. Darren Bravo, in spite of his batting failures, is another exciting young prospect and he too needs to be nurtured. André Russell may also be one for the future. And the selectors almost redeemed themselves with their bold call-up of Devendra Bishoo, who impressed with his temperament and his bowling against England.
But, as the London Telegraph’s rugby correspondent, Mick Cleary, once put it, taking positives from defeat is “the default mode of losers.” Something therefore needs to be done.
It is probably too much to expect the West Indies Cricket Board to take any responsibility for the performance of their employees, but at the very least, the selectors, Messrs Clyde Butts, Courtney Browne and Robert Haynes, should hand in their resignations for picking a squad that was obviously not ready to compete in the top tier of world cricket. It is not clear to the armchair spectator what role the coach, Ottis Gibson, had to play in the strategy adopted for each game, but in spite of his blasting the senior batsmen, he may need to consider his position. Darren Sammy appears to be a decent chap but he is no Mike Brearley, who could be chosen for his captaincy skills alone. For his own sake, he should resign the captaincy and work on his game, before he suffers the ignominy of being dropped as a player and sacked as a captain. And the process of renewal should once again start, building around the likes of Dwayne Bravo (as long as he is willing to commit to West Indies cricket), a recalled Denesh Ramdin, a rejuvenated and hopefully refocused Marlon Samuels and youngsters such as Adrian Barath (if he can stay fit), Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Kemar Roach and André Russell.