South Africa v West Indies, Champions Trophy, Group B, Cardiff June 13, 2013

A question of self-belief for West Indies


On Thursday the rains forced Dwayne Bravo and his men to train in the indoor nets at Sophia Gardens. Soul and reggae music piped out of a stereo from corner of the nets as players hummed and danced to the tunes while carrying on with their jobs. This chilled-out attitude is what separates West Indies from other teams. And on Friday, that attitude could provide West Indies the vital edge in a do-or-die encounter against South Africa, an intense opponent, who can be vulnerable if pushed into a tight corner.

However, the same laidback attitude has been West Indies' bugbear in the past. Today Bravo was not afraid to call South African "chokers" because of their history of failures in the most important matches of the biggest tournaments. But Bravo is no Steve Waugh who had an indomitable will, the leadership skill, a handful of match-winners, and the bloody-mindedness, to dominate the opposition.

South Africa were robbed of the services of Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith before the tournament began and were then hit by the exit of Morne Morkel due to injury, and Dale Steyn has missed the first two matches. West Indies have had no such concerns. Yet, a desperate finish against Pakistan followed by a woeful performance against India shows that they remain unsettled.

West Indies cannot even complain about the conditions considering they played both their matches on dry days, on mostly flat pitches and in their most favourite ground outside the Caribbean - The Oval. West Indies have played out 359 dot balls so far in two matches, which is only seven less than Pakistan, who have played the most. The highest partnership is 78 with only two batsmen making half-centuries - Johnson Charles and Darren Sammy have one each.

The middle-order (4-7) which includes batsmen like Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard and Bravo, has lacked the vigour scoring at an average of 16.12 with a strike-rate of 53.97. The West bowlers have taken 10 wickets in the tournament at an average of 40.10 and a strike-rate of 52.3, both being the worst in the tournament. West Indies so far have been anxious and awful.

Gayle has got starts, but has failed to deliver on his promise to score big runs; Samuels' poor ODI form in England continues; Darren Bravo has failed to switch gears after playing the anchor role; captain Bravo, too, has shown more desperation than assurance with both bat and ball in hand. Pollard has been circumspect to begin with only to falter soon after; the inclusion of Ramnaresh Sarwan, who has scored just two runs in two matches, remains a curious decision; Kemar Roach, after an aggressive spell of fast bowling against Pakistan was completely disoriented against India, thereby releasing all the pressure Ravi Rampaul created.

Common sense, Bravo stressed, is what the West Indies players have been forgetting to utilise during crucial moments. "In a game there are times when you need to think on your feet - for example, when to go for the big shots. We need - all of us, myself included - to know when to take a risk or when to hold back like if you just lose a wicket," Bravo said. "I don't need to play this shot, I need to play this shot. So that's a bit of common sense: knowing when to gamble and when not to gamble."

The teams have met three times during the knockout stages in big tournaments with West Indies leading the count 2-1 so far. South Africa defeated them in the final of the 1999 Wills International Cup, but West Indies won in the 1996 World Cup quarter-finals and in the semi-finals of the 2006 Champions Trophy. Does that history make it easier for West Indies tomorrow?

"It doesn't make it easier; it makes it more exciting," Bravo said. The last time West Indies did play exciting cricket, turned up smarter on the field, were pro-active, though on their feet and won their gambles, was during the World Twenty20. They found themselves living on the edge on more than one occasion during that tournament, yet managed to finish with a big smile. They realised the importance of self-belief. The lack of that now is hurting them. "In this format, it is longer so it requires more skills and more thinking, and I think that's where we fall short most times in this format," Bravo said.

On Thursday afternoon, Cardiff was emptying fast. If you were arriving today to the Welsh capital, you would be greeted by the gentle wafting rain accompanied by the sight of people checking out of the hotels. Jon Bon Jovi played here last night. Rihanna rocked the city on Monday. But there could be more music in store for the fans - if West Indies regain their self-belief, their brand of cricket which can be as entertaining as that of Bon Jovi and Rihanna.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • charlie on June 14, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    Inconsistency on all fronts ,whether players performance or selection policy ,is costing WI . Furthermore Our big bats are not as good as we ,or they think they are ,hence their incosistancy respectively . It's my opinion that the No3 spot is a challenge for Bravo and looks to be beyond Sarwan at this point in time ,so lets get Kirk Edwards back at that position and allow him to settle in the team . Let it be noted that Bravo was performing much better behind Edwards [my opinion again ].

  • chandu on June 14, 2013, 14:02 GMT

    why WI bowling is soo mediocre

  • sri on June 14, 2013, 12:34 GMT

    The game is reduced to 36 overs. The shorter the format the higher the chances for WI. Now i would say WI are favorites. Should be interesting contest between ABD, Miller, Faf and Gayle, Pollard,Narine

  • Tahir on June 14, 2013, 10:40 GMT

    Sure enough SA will not sqander this chance of making to the finals and then winning it. Just they will have to make sure that make India bat first as they relishing chases. If India make to the finals off course. If SA win this match then in the other group their opponent will be a weaker side and they will easily progress to the finals where they can do something to reverse their image of chokers. Also SA will take heart from their last near successful chase against team India but for that they have to gain momentum against WI.

  • Carl on June 14, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    Re:Ian King You would consider dropping Roach for Best? Really? In whose interests, South Africa? Fact is, West Indian cricketers do not like this weather - and it reflects in their overall level of play. I am not making an excuse for them, merely highlighting one of the reasons for their sub-level showing.

  • Yeluri on June 14, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    Except India vs Pak match, rest all are Knock-outs before the Knock out Phase....!

  • Ali on June 14, 2013, 2:50 GMT

    Only Narine, Rampaul, Sammy and Charles have been consistent ......

    If Dr. Hyde version of Roach show up, or the Mr. Jekyll , is anyone's guess ...

    Gayle, Pollard and Samuels are yet to fire .....

    Sarawan --- useless .... really ...... Good for 1st class, but no longer good enough at this level. Wonderfull past record, but in the last 2 years - Simmons should have made this squad before Sarawan ....

    Charles and Simmons have been the WI most consistent ODI batsmen for the last 2 year.... and it is a pity......

    anytime the get 2 bad games they are dropped for about a year ....

  • Dummy4 on June 13, 2013, 23:48 GMT

    well lets be logical ......... west indies is one of the favorites bt whether they bat or bowl second .. runs is already on the board and they can win anytime cause they r unpredictable ............... so i know they will win!! GO WESTINDIES GO!!

  • Dummy4 on June 13, 2013, 22:39 GMT

    I am sorry to say, but with a 70% chance of rain at Cardiff, Bravo and his men might as well board the plane. In retrospect, that team should have comprised Shiv Chanderpaul and Dwayne Smith, both of whom have been playing in England for a while now, and have been performing successfully.