ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
India v West Indies, World Cup 2011, Chennai
West Indies search for winning feeling
West Indies have created opportunities in both of their last two matches, but perhaps the memory of winning against a big team is too hazy for them to remember how to get over the line
March 20, 2011
In May 2006, after India had edged a close game in Jamaica at the start of the one-day series, Greg Chappell, then the coach, suggested that West Indies had forgotten how to win. It prompted a furious response, and some West Indies players indicated that it had been the inspiration for a rousing comeback that sealed the series 4-1.
Those were hardly glory days for West Indies - the subsequent Test series was lost in Kingston - but continuing poor results have meant that even the players have begun to acknowledge that the winning habit is a hazy memory.
The task at Chepauk was not a straightforward run chase, especially with no Chris Gayle at the top of the order. But having done the hard work, with Devon Smith particularly impressive in crafting 81, the match was there to be won. When you are 154 for 2, needing less than a run a ball from the last 20 overs, it takes some pretty inept batting to throw it away.
Darren Sammy is now as used to answering the collapse question as he is to losing tosses. "We created another opportunity, but couldn't capitalise," he said wearily. "It's a good thing it didn't happen in the knockout stage. If it had, we would be going home. It is worrying for us, but I back the calibre of players that we have."
Smith is exempt from criticism, bowled by a beautiful slower delivery from Zaheer Khan, but as India scented an opportunity, West Indies drilled holes instead of plugging leaks. Kieron Pollard, batting with a dislocated finger, went for the glory shot before he'd settled, and Sammy was run out in a comedy of errors involving him, Suresh Raina and Munaf Patel.
Those left showed no inclination to take the game to the wire, and Ramnaresh Sarwan's desperate swipe at Zaheer in the batting Powerplay summed up the collective lack of belief. There have been murmurs about the exclusion of Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the last two games, but it's optimistic to see a man averaging 23.33 in the tournament, with a strike-rate of 58.82, as the panacea to batting ills.
Spare a thought for Ravi Rampaul. A benchwarmer until fever ruled Kemar Roach out, he produced a magnificent spell of bowling on a pitch that offered little more than some early bounce. Back in June 2009, when West Indies last beat a top-ranking nation [India, in Jamaica], Rampaul had taken 4 for 37. On Sunday, he topped that with 5 for 51.
The reverse-swing special to get rid of a well-set Virat Kohli was eye-catching, as was the yorker with which he nailed Yusuf Pathan. It was yet another reminder to the line-and-length school of coaching that bending your back and bowling genuinely quick comes with its own rewards.
Afterwards, Sammy admitted that Rampaul's performance was one of the few things to take away from the defeat. "He has been on the bench, but he's come in and grabbed his opportunity with both hands. That's what you want from your team setup."
What you don't want is to give dangerous batsmen too many reprieves. "We got success early on, and could have had Yuvraj [Singh] too," Sammy said. "I was the culprit who dropped him both times."
Yuvraj had made just 9 and 13 when those chances went down, and his 122-run partnership with Kohli transformed the game. With Pakistan having played one of their best games of the tournament against Australia, such generosity is likely to be severely punished in Mirpur on Wednesday, when West Indies face them in the first quarter-final.
Sammy is well aware of the threat. "Their captain [Shahid Afridi] has been performing, and some of the others have too. Hopefully, they'll have their bad match against us, and we'll bring our A game."
It's been a long time since anyone saw it. But as they head to Bangladesh, the players could do worse than ask Richie Richardson, the manager, to tell them about 1996. Then too, West Indies qualified fourth out of their group and were given next to no chance against a rampant South Africa.
A Brian Lara epic followed, and Sammy will hope that a fit-again Chris Gayle or a Darren Bravo can emulate him as a once-great side tries to rediscover the winning feeling.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
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