Michael Jeh May 27, 2009

An effortless loss

Chanderpaul’s innings, after a brisk start, disintegrated into something that almost defied belief

A few months ago I wrote a piece that questioned the role of the coach, especially in relation to John Dyson and the West Indies when they cocked up the Duckworth Lewis formula in that ODI a few months ago.

Last night, against my better instincts (yet again), I stayed up to watch the West Indies chase a challenging 329 target set by England at Edgbaston. I never really expected them to win but I figured that the chase would be short and entertaining with players like Gayle, Bravo, Sarwan, Chanderpaul etc playing like millionaires in pursuit of a 6+ rpo target on a good pitch. After all, commonsense would dictate that they had no choice but to play shots and keep playing shots until the very end. I figured they might be bowled out for 220 in the 35th over, well worth sacrificing a few hours of sleep to watch some dazzling strokeplay.

Wrong. In hindsight, I should have just switched off and gone to bed as soon as Gayle and Sarwan were dismissed early doors. What was subsequently dished up for the next 46 overs was an absolute waste of time (apart from a brief cameo from the admirable Bravo). It showed total contempt for the viewing public. It was an exercise in cynicism to watch a team just bat 50 overs with no genuine intention of trying to win. At a time when the 50 over game is under threat from the T20 mania that is sweeping the game, the West Indies did everything possible to undermine the integrity of international ODI cricket.

More to the point, it made me realise that Dyson probably has no influence on team tactics or has no idea of what it means. I’m not sure who controls the dynamic in the dressing room but whoever it is, Gayle or Dyson, they are clearly out of their depth when it comes to understanding what it takes to try to win a game of cricket. Or they just don’t care. Perhaps both.

Chanderpaul’s innings, after a brisk start, disintegrated into something that almost defied belief. In the context of an asking rate that never got below 6.5 runs per over, his performance was almost like he was making a silent protest at being left to shoulder the batting responsibilities yet again. It’s not like he was trying to smash the ball and kept missing – no, he just went through a 25 over patch when he made no effort to do anything but push singles. It was astounding to watch the required rate climbing whilst Chanderpaul, capable of playing some stunning shots, seemingly oblivious to the game situation. Even Denesh Ramdin who scored at run-a-ball and has a more limited arsenal of strokes was too slow in the context of a run rate that required much more intent than pushing singles.

The final straw for one sleepy, grumpy spectator on a winter’s night in Australia was to keep waiting for the final powerplay in the hope that it would spark some sort of action. My justification for refusing to go to bed was twisted logic: having stayed up this long, I’d be disappointed if old Chanders exploded in the powerplay (as we know he can) and I missed it. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

I’m still struggling to understand Dyson or Gayle’s rationale for delaying the powerplay until the run rate was almost 12 runs per over. Perhaps they had honestly gone beyond caring. It’s been a tough, cold tour and maybe they’ve just lost interest. What other explanation can there be for rational, intelligent people to be blind to the bleeding obvious. What possible reason could there have been for not taking the powerplay earlier when it was a mere 8 runs per over and there was even the faintest hope of changing the momentum of the game?

As it turned out, my 6 year old son heard the television in the lounge room and sleepily crawled into my lap and watched about ten minutes of the game before asking me: “Dad, why haven’t they taken the powerplay yet? Are they really trying to win?”

It took him just ten minutes to figure it out. I wish I’d asked him earlier!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane