March 24, 2011

A Ming vase in a tumble-dryer down a bobsled run

Or what West Indies resembled when they stormed the World Cup Roll Call of Rubbish in Mirpur
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The long-awaited quarter-final stage began with the kind of grotesque mismatch that was supposed to have been confined to the group phase. The Shere Bangla began this tournament being adorned by a trademark 175-run Sehwag powerblast. Since then, this apparent batting paradise has been scarred with three batting performances of stratospheric incompetence. Bangladesh’s 58 and 78 were joined in the 2011 World Cup Roll Call of Rubbish, in the Catalogue Of Crud, and in the Inventory Of Inept by a West Indian 112, a performance so poor it needed a whip-round in the ICC office just to be able to be able to afford a room for the night and a bowl of soup.

This was an excellent display by Afridi’s increasingly confident-looking Pakistan team. If you exclude New Zealand’s Pallekelle powerblast, off which Pakistan conceded 113 runs in 33 balls of unprecedented mayhem (two words that, contrary to popular belief, are not officially in the PCB’s corporate mission statement), Pakistan’s bowlers now average 19 in this tournament, with an economy rate of 3.6.

Battle-hardened by the rather tougher tests against the more creditable batting opposition provided by, for example, Canada and Kenya, the Pakistan attack was too much for the Caribbean team, who batted with all the steel of a spoonless grapefruit. Reports that the West Indies players were seen after the game throwing stones at their own bus remain unconfirmed.

In their two games in Chennai, West Indies at least looked a reasonable team who did not know how to win. They played some good cricket, only to undermine themselves with decisive bursts of ineptitude later in the games. Yesterday they got their ineptitude in early, hard and often. Having looked dangerously fragile in their games with England and India, against Pakistan they shattered like a Ming vase in a tumble dryer going down a bobsled run.

The most rational explanation is that Sammy and his men were racked by guilt at having spoilt Bangladesh’s World Cup on two counts – by skittling the Tigers for 58, then by tanking a winning position against England. They knew that the sellout crowd had bought their tickets in the hope of seeing two things: (a) Bangladesh play at the Shere Bangla; and (b) a team in green winning. West Indies duly, as an admirable exercise in bridge-building, duly did their best possible impersonation of Part A, and generously facilitated Part B.

Pakistan has produced great opening bowlers – Fazal Mahmood, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis ‒ but if someone had asked you a year ago which of their players was most likely to take 2 for 13 in eight overs with the new ball in a World Cup quarter-final, few would have guessed Mohammad Hafeez. Even Mohammad Hafeez would not have guessed Mohammad Hafeez. If he had, people would have told him to go and have a cup of tea and a sit down until he was feeling better.

Hafeez has had an excellent tournament as a bowler (in the last five games he has taken 5 for 100 in 35 overs), but West Indies have written a new chapter in The Art Of How To Play Spin. Unfortunately, that chapter is entitled: “How Not To Play Spin”.

In this World Cup, in games between Test teams, opposition spinners have taken 28 West Indian wickets at 16.2, with an economy rate of 3.60. Pakistan’s slowies took 8 for 64 yesterday; in Chennai, India’s tweakers took 6 for 134 and England’s spinsters 7 for 84; in Delhi, South Africa’s three-prong lack-of-pace attack took 6 for 138. Scoring 34 runs without losing a wicket to Bangladesh’s spinmen in their now-slightly-surprising successful chase of 59 is starting to appear a remarkable achievement in hindsight.

West Indies have lost more wickets to spin in these matches between Test nations, at a lower average, whilst scoring more slowly, than any other team. (The table does not make particularly promising reading for England ahead of their Colombo quarter-final on Saturday, nor for Jason Krejza before today’s India-Australia showdown.)

All in all, it did not feel like a World Cup quarter-final. The crowd were noisily supportive of Pakistan, but there was an atmosphere of What Might Have Been over the ground. If Bangladesh had made it, there would have been tumultuous pride and excitement. At least for a while. As it was, the ground slowly filled up, and by the time the majority of the spectators arrived, the game was already lying in a vegetative state, merely awaiting the formality of having its plug pulled. From a cricketing point of view, it was a World Cup quarter-final. It might have been a thrilling game of cricket. It became a gory exposition of the long-standing decline of West Indian cricket.

It was all deeply dispiriting to watch for cricket supporters. Watching the once-great West Indies, the team that gave the sport its most iconic dynasty, playing with this painful level of ineptitude prompted similar feelings to seeing Bob Dylan singing advertising jingles for children’s toothpaste, or Italy’s No. 1-ranked sculpture whizz Michelangelo creating porcelain figurines of cats wearing pink bonnets, or champion racehorse Red Rum being pan fried by a low-grade French chef.

EXTRAS

- If one man exemplifies the sad decline of West Indies, it is Kieron Pollard. He continues to intrigue and mostly disappoint as an international cricketer. In four innings against Test opposition in this World Cup, he has passed 1 only once. Against India, he played a shot so stupid it would not have been allowed to sit an exam, let alone fail it. But the other three times he has been dismissed defending, so the problem seems to be mostly a lack of technique rather than of application. He hit two sixes against England of phenomenal power. He has the physique of an Olympian god and the tax bracket of a rock god, but an ODI record on a par with Scotland’s Gordon Drummond.

Pollard could become a West Indian Andrew Flintoff. Flintoff was a cricketer who similarly struggled in his early career. In his first 26 ODIs he averaged 22 with the bat and took nine wickets at 38; after 20 Tests his averages were 20 and 50, which would have been great had they been the other way round. He then flourished into probably England’s finest ever limited-overs cricketer, and for a couple of years before the injuries took their toll, a great Test allrounder. Can Pollard do the same? Flintoff’s own efforts were facilitated by a well-organised and supportive coaching structure, a strong team of fellow bowlers, and mostly through his own application and phenomenal physical efforts. Will Pollard be driven and assisted by any of these three factors? His career will reveal much about West Indian cricket.

- Yesterday’s Mirpur mauling was enlivened by a stirring and potentially unbeatable addition to the list of Most Pointless Words Ever Spoken. In between the two innings, the stadium PA man announced with admirable enthusiasm and in considerable detail that, in the event of the match being delayed and an extra day’s play being necessary, spectators would have to keep their ticket stubs to be allowed entry to the stadium. These words floated across the Shere Bangla as the West Indies total of 113 gleamed red-facedly from the scoreboard, and as the cloudless Dhaka sky looked on in considerable confusion, checked that it was indeed as cloudless as it thought it was, and muttered to itself: “What is this guy talking about?”

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • James on March 25, 2011, 19:59 GMT

    "[The] West Indies have written a new chapter in The Art Of How To Play Spin. Unfortunately, that chapter is entitled: “How Not To Play Spin”." is now my favourite cricket-based sentence of all-time.

  • Anonymous on March 25, 2011, 19:09 GMT

    ... unprecedented mayhem (two words that, contrary to popular belief, are not officially in the PCB’s corporate mission statement... HAHA.

  • Poor Cricket Fan on March 25, 2011, 12:08 GMT

    Hello Andy. Just read the article, and this is an excellent 'sad but funny' account of the game. With bracing wit to match. I listened on (TMS) radio, and heard Mr (Tony) Cozier wilt under the strain as he described a rampant Pakistan team demolish the WIndies' efforts with such clinical efficiency. Thank you for bring us bad news with your trademark good humour.

  • Osama on March 25, 2011, 7:05 GMT

    as always...

    great!!!

    I'm currently doing a thesis on "cricket before and after the advent of andy zaltzmann"

  • suman on March 25, 2011, 6:24 GMT

    d last para is absolutely brilliant.....out of the blue!!!!

  • kamran on March 25, 2011, 6:14 GMT

    well i need to add something one of my friends had this on his status on facebook

    "It all started early morning. Kamran Akmal said he can stump and take catches it made the West Indians go mad with laughing their wickets out ... Cahnderpaul however, didn't enjoy it much!"

  • anwar on March 25, 2011, 4:56 GMT

    @cricketloverJA Why cant windies include more sensible batsmen like chanderpaul. As a cricket fan, it is disappointing to see such poor display of cricket from WI. I remember Windies dominance of World Cricket especially in fast bowling for decades, (though i saw myself only the late 80s and early 90s. After such defeats, it is the best opportunity to do some soul searching and put everything in order. A region that has produced players like Lara, Andrew Hall, Malcolm Marshall and the list goes on, cricket fans expect much from you regardless of their nationalities, Windie cricket had its own brand, that fearless and dominating cricket that these guys used to play.

    @Andy (BTW that was funny "few would have guessed Mohammad Hafeez. Even Mohammad Hafeez would not have guessed Mohammad Hafeez.)

  • Mani on March 25, 2011, 4:32 GMT

    Stones on their own bus !! Awesome, LOL

  • Aijaz on March 25, 2011, 3:49 GMT

    One of the best sentence "Even Mohammad Hafeez would not have guessed Mohammad Hafeez.":) Excellent and intelligent thinking!

  • Luke on March 25, 2011, 3:34 GMT

    "They knew that the sellout crowd had bought their tickets in the hope of seeing two things: (a) Bangladesh play at the Shere Bangla; and (b) a team in green winning. West Indies, as an admirable exercise in bridge-building, duly did their best possible impersonation of Part A, and generously facilitated Part B."

    Funniest and cleverest thing I've read all year. Thank you very much!

  • James on March 25, 2011, 19:59 GMT

    "[The] West Indies have written a new chapter in The Art Of How To Play Spin. Unfortunately, that chapter is entitled: “How Not To Play Spin”." is now my favourite cricket-based sentence of all-time.

  • Anonymous on March 25, 2011, 19:09 GMT

    ... unprecedented mayhem (two words that, contrary to popular belief, are not officially in the PCB’s corporate mission statement... HAHA.

  • Poor Cricket Fan on March 25, 2011, 12:08 GMT

    Hello Andy. Just read the article, and this is an excellent 'sad but funny' account of the game. With bracing wit to match. I listened on (TMS) radio, and heard Mr (Tony) Cozier wilt under the strain as he described a rampant Pakistan team demolish the WIndies' efforts with such clinical efficiency. Thank you for bring us bad news with your trademark good humour.

  • Osama on March 25, 2011, 7:05 GMT

    as always...

    great!!!

    I'm currently doing a thesis on "cricket before and after the advent of andy zaltzmann"

  • suman on March 25, 2011, 6:24 GMT

    d last para is absolutely brilliant.....out of the blue!!!!

  • kamran on March 25, 2011, 6:14 GMT

    well i need to add something one of my friends had this on his status on facebook

    "It all started early morning. Kamran Akmal said he can stump and take catches it made the West Indians go mad with laughing their wickets out ... Cahnderpaul however, didn't enjoy it much!"

  • anwar on March 25, 2011, 4:56 GMT

    @cricketloverJA Why cant windies include more sensible batsmen like chanderpaul. As a cricket fan, it is disappointing to see such poor display of cricket from WI. I remember Windies dominance of World Cricket especially in fast bowling for decades, (though i saw myself only the late 80s and early 90s. After such defeats, it is the best opportunity to do some soul searching and put everything in order. A region that has produced players like Lara, Andrew Hall, Malcolm Marshall and the list goes on, cricket fans expect much from you regardless of their nationalities, Windie cricket had its own brand, that fearless and dominating cricket that these guys used to play.

    @Andy (BTW that was funny "few would have guessed Mohammad Hafeez. Even Mohammad Hafeez would not have guessed Mohammad Hafeez.)

  • Mani on March 25, 2011, 4:32 GMT

    Stones on their own bus !! Awesome, LOL

  • Aijaz on March 25, 2011, 3:49 GMT

    One of the best sentence "Even Mohammad Hafeez would not have guessed Mohammad Hafeez.":) Excellent and intelligent thinking!

  • Luke on March 25, 2011, 3:34 GMT

    "They knew that the sellout crowd had bought their tickets in the hope of seeing two things: (a) Bangladesh play at the Shere Bangla; and (b) a team in green winning. West Indies, as an admirable exercise in bridge-building, duly did their best possible impersonation of Part A, and generously facilitated Part B."

    Funniest and cleverest thing I've read all year. Thank you very much!

  • t&tredbaron on March 25, 2011, 3:30 GMT

    this piece is not only funny but also an accurate portrait of the shambles that is called west indies cricket but would be more appropriately named "wet undies cricket". "west indies cricket" is dead, having outlived its time & relevance by at least 20 years. it was a british colonial creation that served british colonials & has no relevance among the post-colonial peoples & cricketers of independent caribbean NATIONS. there will be no "return to the glory days"...indeed, things will only get worse. the sad part is that it serves the self-interests of caribbean con men to prop up the rotting corpse instead of encouraging independent countries to become individual ICC members instead of being members of the only "gang" in the ICC. every other ICC member is a SINGLE country...only so-called "west indians", seemingly devoid of pride & shame, compete as a gang, knowing full well there is no "west indies" country.

    i hope that trinidad and tobago will be the first to leave the gang.

  • Raihan Sharif on March 25, 2011, 3:03 GMT

    Ho ho ho... a Ming vase in a... very very funny in that special acerbic kind of way.

  • Noune Chalant on March 25, 2011, 2:23 GMT

    There are some comments that seem to wish the death of West Indian cricket including it would seem much of Andy's - that would be a bad thing for world cricket. From 1929 to probably about 1996, this team has thrilled the world and is easily everyone's second team outside of the West Indies. Cricket happens to be a game of cycles, some perhaps longer than others. The pride of the people that populate a chain of islands called the Caribbean will somehow force this rag tag group of misfits into a real team - people like Jerome Taylor, Fidel Edwards, Dwayne Bravo, Adrian Barath, Marlon Samuels along with a proper wicket-keeper were not around and when they come back back, it probably be a much better team to reckon with. Not being able to play spin may not be a handicap except in South Asia and it is something that they will eventually come to terms with. You see cricket is important to these poor little islands in the Caribbean perhaps even more than in other parts of the world - better

  • Som on March 24, 2011, 20:52 GMT

    Nice one ! But pls do not overdo so as to retain the freshness.

  • William Grey on March 24, 2011, 20:52 GMT

    Andy's writing and humour is like Kieron Pollard's batting...a few entertaining sixes...but overall useless. Seriously cricinfo needs fresh talent like the Windies

  • Pitchfly on March 24, 2011, 20:10 GMT

    Looks like AZ has raised his game for the QFs. Dont you ever get plagued by poor form Andy?

  • Anonymous on March 24, 2011, 20:03 GMT

    Growing up in Trinidad, Cricket was the one sport that made us consistently proud to be Trini. this world cup has been my lowest point as a Windies cricket fan, that quarterfinal being the worst of it. Thanks for bringing a cheer to my cricket depression.

  • Nadeem on March 24, 2011, 19:52 GMT

    Andy, is there a story behind your equine metaphores? You compared Smith and Amla's partnership to a Chopin duet with piano and a horse chainsawed. And now the demolition of the West Indies is not unlike watching Red Rum being pan fried. What gives?

  • Anonymous on March 24, 2011, 19:14 GMT

    cricketloverJA : I feel your pain. But dont worry, these things come in cycles, and i am sure you guys will bounce back. it just takes 4-5 really talented guys to get together and form the nucleus of a killer team. the rest starts clicking by itself. Bravo & Roach are already there. Russell looks like he has it in him. Maybe the other Bravo (not sure). one more good bowler and you will see the tide turning...

  • Arvind on March 24, 2011, 19:01 GMT

    Well, Those weren't 'Most Pointless Words Ever Spoken', the floodlights weren't working during the innings break and if they didn't the match would have finished only the next day

  • Anonymous on March 24, 2011, 18:17 GMT

    This is one of the funniest reads! Great work Andy!

  • Ali on March 24, 2011, 18:13 GMT

    Mate, this is uncharacteristic. I forbid you to write about the West Indies for the next 80 years, which is about the time it will take them to get back to where they were in the 1980s.

  • bilal on March 24, 2011, 17:55 GMT

    After PAKISTAN's mauling its time for Zaltzman mauling .... Amazing text bub keep it up

  • Rohan on March 24, 2011, 17:45 GMT

    "Reports that the West Indies players were seen after the game throwing stones at their own bus remain unconfirmed." -- Priceless :)

  • Asim Chaudhry on March 24, 2011, 15:44 GMT

    This article is both funny and sad at the same time....

  • Shailesh on March 24, 2011, 14:42 GMT

    After watching video of Bob (or some other, what's in a name) sitting inside a tumble-dryer tumbling down a hill and another video of Bob sliding on ice, backed by the absence of Wikipedia page on the strength comparison of modern day pottery and pottery in the Ming era, I am dismissing the title of your article as a propaganda paid for by the washing-line industry.

  • Cam on March 24, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    Utterly sublime commentary Mr Z

  • Cam on March 24, 2011, 14:27 GMT

    Genius blog.

  • Anonymous on March 24, 2011, 14:26 GMT

    (continuing) But are we to blame the players? I think not. If Pollard, Smith, Sammy and co. had gotten a proper foundation they wouldn't be so clumsy playing spin and swing today. Can you start to build a house with the roof, where are you gonna put it? Administration must, if they love WI cricket and want to preserve it, look at the grassroots, they must look at PITCHES, they must look at proper nutrition if they want to produce and preserve fruitful cricketers. PLEASE!! I have too much of a passion for this game. by the way I'm really happy WI lost to England because if Bangladesh got to the Quarterfinal stage I have a feeling they would have performed poorly. That would really flatten the Cup (two awful matches) England have been a joy to watch though. Cheers!

  • cricketloverJA on March 24, 2011, 14:18 GMT

    (continuing) What takes place on the field however is a stark reflection of what is happening in the typical Caribbean society. *sigh*. We don't apply ourselves as a people GENERALLY ( i don't want anyone jumping down my throat). We have so much talent here but it is not being cultivated. The current administrators now are at least better than the last ones. Ernest Hilaire, the current CEO for the WICB, at least sounds like he has some sort of plan for the future and he says we have to look to the next generation of players. Bravo, Brathwaite, Holder, Dowrich etc. It can't continue like this. The technical glitches are blatant. Look at Ajmal with the doosra yesterday! Sammy was at SEA! I like Darren Sammy as a passionate West Indian, as a cricketer he's off the radar no technique whatsoever. Devon Smith has no clue on playing spin either, not even Gayle (our BEST player!) POLLARD - the biggest disappointment of them all....(continuing)

  • cricketloverJA on March 24, 2011, 14:01 GMT

    Andy, let me first of all apologize to you, cricket lovers and cricket for that abominable display of incompetence yesterday on behalf of all West Indians and non-stone-hurling Bangladeshi fans. I'm an 18 year old Jamaican and it's really heart-wrenching to see something that I love go down the drain (or further down the drain). The first test series I watched was the India-WI series in WI in '02 and from there it's been no looking back. To see the team sink so easily however was dismal. We here in the Caribbean love cricket not only because it is entertaining but because it reminds us of the history that we have as a region and as a people ;it is one of the only mediums through which we are united. You could never tell however by such an inept display. (continuing)

  • Bader on March 24, 2011, 13:54 GMT

    Sad and true as windies cricket finds creative ways to spiral to new lows. It seems karma has taken its full circle when a generation back windies cricketers displayed the same skill , talent , ruthlessness and professionalism that Pakistan displayed at the quarterfinals.

  • sudhanshu on March 24, 2011, 13:18 GMT

    Can someone recommend to ICC to add West Indies in the list of Associate Teams so we dont get to see them next time...Pollard is good for IPL and so is the King of Lethargy Gayle...Roach as well has a contract so rest can try playing among themselves and enjoy beer around the panoramic views of the Caribbeans...

  • Kenny on March 24, 2011, 13:08 GMT

    Hi Andy. I'm stuck on a ship with no cricket coverage and I read your hilarious comments before I read the results of the matches. Even after an obviously dull, one sided game your observations are something to look forward to. Keep it up please.

  • Yaju on March 24, 2011, 12:10 GMT

    Lovely article! Had a blast reading it. :)

  • njr1330 on March 24, 2011, 11:40 GMT

    '...throwing stones at their own bus...' '...slightly surprising successful chase of 58..' Classic!

  • Subramani on March 24, 2011, 11:18 GMT

    Started off in classic Zaltzman style, then kind of tapered off into serious journalism. No Andy, don't get emotional...we need your similes to keep flying! :)

  • salim tyrewala on March 24, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    this was not funny at all.

  • Ravi on March 24, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    This is hilarious...kudos to Andy....the game seems so much more exciting in the article that it was on TV.

  • Gordon Sumner on March 24, 2011, 8:45 GMT

    Amazingly written Andy...Just died laughing...

  • butterBum on March 24, 2011, 8:20 GMT

    Not sure whether you would care to follow your fans quotes as we follow you, "Reports that the West Indies players were seen after the game throwing stones at their own bus remain unconfirmed". but I Laughed out Loud.... a big TY

  • Janak on March 24, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    Reports of Windies team throwing stones at their own bus... lol... Also the 'guilt' reason was a superb observation :)

    Overall great article Andy (especially considering you have to churn these out much more often for the world cup).

    And you might have missed one logical explanation for the PA man's announcement - the match could have got delayed if Bangladesh fans started throwing stones at Windies bus - for twice depriving them an opportunity to enjoy watching their quota of 100 overs by a long margin.

  • sp on March 24, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    Windies players throwing stones at their own bus....great laughs Andy.. one of your best! spilled the lunch all over the keyboard

  • Antony on March 24, 2011, 7:54 GMT

    'all the steel of spoonless grapefruit' - classic

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  • Antony on March 24, 2011, 7:54 GMT

    'all the steel of spoonless grapefruit' - classic

  • sp on March 24, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    Windies players throwing stones at their own bus....great laughs Andy.. one of your best! spilled the lunch all over the keyboard

  • Janak on March 24, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    Reports of Windies team throwing stones at their own bus... lol... Also the 'guilt' reason was a superb observation :)

    Overall great article Andy (especially considering you have to churn these out much more often for the world cup).

    And you might have missed one logical explanation for the PA man's announcement - the match could have got delayed if Bangladesh fans started throwing stones at Windies bus - for twice depriving them an opportunity to enjoy watching their quota of 100 overs by a long margin.

  • butterBum on March 24, 2011, 8:20 GMT

    Not sure whether you would care to follow your fans quotes as we follow you, "Reports that the West Indies players were seen after the game throwing stones at their own bus remain unconfirmed". but I Laughed out Loud.... a big TY

  • Gordon Sumner on March 24, 2011, 8:45 GMT

    Amazingly written Andy...Just died laughing...

  • Ravi on March 24, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    This is hilarious...kudos to Andy....the game seems so much more exciting in the article that it was on TV.

  • salim tyrewala on March 24, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    this was not funny at all.

  • Subramani on March 24, 2011, 11:18 GMT

    Started off in classic Zaltzman style, then kind of tapered off into serious journalism. No Andy, don't get emotional...we need your similes to keep flying! :)

  • njr1330 on March 24, 2011, 11:40 GMT

    '...throwing stones at their own bus...' '...slightly surprising successful chase of 58..' Classic!

  • Yaju on March 24, 2011, 12:10 GMT

    Lovely article! Had a blast reading it. :)