ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Pakistan v West Indies, World Cup 2011, 1st quarter-final, Mirpur

West Indies succumb to spin

Eight of their ten wickets went to the spinners, not because there was excessive turn, but because the batsmen didn't know how to play them

Firdose Moonda at Shere Bangla stadium

March 23, 2011

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Devendra Bishoo was bowled for a duck, West Indies v Pakistan, 1st quarter-final, World Cup 2011, March 23, 2011
The West Indies batsmen were clueless against the slow bowlers © Getty Images
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It's sometimes easy to forget that West Indies have specific cricketing problems. Look at them through a wide lens and it seems that everything is in disarray - the batsmen can't form partnerships, the bowlers can't break them, the batsmen can't build on foundations and the bowlers allow the opposition to do exactly that.

From a distance, the whole picture is chaotic and it's easier to leave it that way, but zoom in a little and there are a few details that are worth examining. In this case, it was the way the West Indian batsman allowed the Pakistan spinners to run circles around them, until they were eventually spun out of contention in the match.

Eight of their ten wickets went the way of the tweakers, not because there was excessive turn on offer, but because the batsmen didn't know how to play them. Head coach Ottis Gibson admitted as much. "The wicket didn't get anybody out; it was not a bad wicket at all," he said. "It's a combination of poor batsmenship and perhaps very low confidence."

Only with better results will confidence levels improve but poor shot selection and approach is something that can be worked on and something that West Indies should have known they'd have to concentrate on from the first match, when their fragility against Johan Botha became apparent. The offspinner's turn away from the left-handers had Chris Gayle and Darren Bravo confused and they both fell to Botha in that match. Devon Smith and Bravo did the same against James Tredwell in the match against England and Graeme Swann caused endless problems to the other batsmen, left and right-handed sprinkled all through the order.

Today, they went in with four of the top six being left-handers: Gayle, Smith, Bravo and Chanderpaul. Again, two of them, Smith and Bravo, fell to the offspinner. Smith faced just five balls from Mohammed Hafeez and looked more clueless with each one. He went back to two of them, went forward to two and then didn't know what to against the fifth - ended up being caught in the crease and struck dead in front of middle.

Bravo, whose problems against offspin need some urgent addressing, was even more even more at sea against Hafeez, first trying to cut a delivery that was too full and defending haplessly against the straighter one. It wasn't the turn that beat either of them, but the fact that it didn't turn as much they expected.

Gibson said that they coaching staff had addressed the issue of the arm ball in team meetings and had spoken about how to deal with it, but the batsmen were unable to execute. "With the DRS system, the spinners are bowling a lot straighter and bowling at the stumps a lot more. We spoke about using the bat more but we ended up playing for turn and a lot of the balls went straight on and that's why we got a few lbws."

When it wasn't the offspin giving the left-handers problems, it was the legspin doing the same to the right-handers, but not just any legspin, it was the efforts of the tournament's highest wicket-taker, Shahid Afridi.

Ramnaresh Sarwan has struggled to find his form in the tournament and it showed again tonight. Afridi looked like he would Sarwan's number from ball one. Sarwan was either getting tangled up in Afridi's googly or jumping out of the crease to play through the off side, with minimal success. In the end, it was extra bounce that cost Sarwan his wicket.

Kieron Pollard, who staying power in anything longer than a twenty-over game is going to be questioned again, is already not the best player against spin. He likes the ball coming onto his bat with about the same speed as he likes to hit it off his bat. He only faced spinners, Afridi and Saeed Ajmal in this match and even though he saw a good few short balls, he was unable to adjust to the length. Pollard wanted to cut more than anything else and it was that shot that cost him as he eventually succeeded in only getting an edge.

The end result was the batsmen ended up looking like zombies, unsure of what to do and hesitant about how to do it. It was their performance that cost West Indies throughout the tournament - against England and India, when they should have won chasing and now, against Pakistan, when 112 was a pitiful account of what they may be capable of.

It proved a good reflection of their performance as a whole in the tournament, which Gibson said resulted in them "stumbling" into the quarterfinals after "good performances against Ireland, Bangla and Netherlands." They showed that they are good enough not to be grouped with the smaller teams, but not that they are good enough to be counted among the top teams. "We are yet to beat one of the big boys. We thought today would be that day and we are very disappointed."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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