Pakistan v West Indies, Champions Trophy, Group A, Johannesburg September 23, 2009

No devaluation from these West Indies


It cannot be an easy time to be a West Indies cricketer of any kind. Those on strike are not doing what they are meant to be doing. Those in South Africa are not being credited for doing what they are doing.

Floyd Reifer's men came into the tournament having been beaten by Bangladesh. Their presence here was said by many to devalue the tournament itself. And when their batting collapsed today, you could sense people were waiting to pounce.

It's a funny charge that, devaluation, given that of the many things the Champions Trophy has been accused of in the past, adding value to cricket has rarely been one of them. Minnows have played before and been greatly embarrassed too. And it's hardly as if the West Indians not of Reifer have gallivanted around the globe over the last many years adding value to the game.

It is too harsh, too righteous, too ignorant of a devilishly entangled issue and too disrespectful of those who are here. They are plainly a weak side and are likely to be beaten in all three games. But they did not devalue their match against Pakistan. They almost made something of it, added whatever value can be added to a match in which a target of 134 has been set. Their top order was poor, but it's not as if Pakistan's batted like kings. And if the pitch remains the same then other sides will also struggle with the grass.

They flashed and dashed around the field later with particular vim and gusto, a world away from the lethargy that so often engulfs Chris Gayle's sides. There were errors for sure, but the effort could not be questioned. Tino Best hared in wanting to break something, Darren Sammy and David Bernard didn't disgrace themselves and Gavin Tonge actually surpassed himself.

So fluid and rhythmic was Tonge that you believed him when he said after taking a career-best 4 for 25 that he could've bowled 20 overs straight. "I was feeling good today, good to bowl 20 overs straight because it was my type of pitch and I was feeling it good," Tonge said. "Coming in the rhythm was perfect."

They were the first four ODI wickets of his career and it felt as if he did his spell a little disservice by talking of the pitch as if it were a love he had spent his entire life chasing after. "That was a very good track for fast bowling and cricket in general," he said. "Having seen the Pakistan bowlers earlier in the day there was a little bit of nip in it and a fair bit of carry, but it was a very, very good pitch for fast bowling."

Bowlers are rarely so glowing about the merits of a pitch, especially after they have done so well on it. The natural urge is to play up your own skills and play down the surface's assistance. Not so Tonge. "We're going to be playing on the same pitch again," he said, in anticipation of a second date. "Hopefully it will be behaving the same, so I will put the ball on the spot and let the pitch do the same. Hopefully I'll be doing the same thing again."

Sure there was movement, but he did all that smart bowlers do on such surfaces, hitting the right areas and all that. The ball moved about, Pakistan's batsmen froze as they often do on such pitches and chasing such totals and it was all quite competitive. A slightly bigger target, a Mohammad Yousuf chance held onto early and who knows; Tonge didn't think the Yousuf drop made much of a difference in any case.

Inevitably, the issue of devaluation was skirted around. Questions were asked about second strings and future selections when and if the others come back, a little unfair on a man who has just recorded a career-best against serious opposition in a serious tournament, quite likely the biggest match of his career. "I definitely think so [forced a few people to take us seriously]. I wouldn't say it is a second string team because each guy has performed to be here and we are here to compete." The future, he said reasonably, would be left to the selectors.

Other teams and batsmen in the group may well be more ruthless with them, however, so the issue is unlikely to go away. Not that Tonge seemed worried, even expressing disappointment at not being able to bowl to Yuvraj Singh. "I was looking forward to playing against him, really looking forward to it."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • giovaughn on September 26, 2009, 0:45 GMT

    i must commens gavin tonge on his bowling performance. he did what some experienced players are unable to do on a consistent basis. if he trains hard and gets the right kind of mental and technical support in the next few years he could be quite a big handfull. miller also batted very well in an extremely high pressure situation he should also continue to work on both his bowling and batting. hard work and the right atitude always brings great succes however hard work alone cannot gaurantee maximum success

  • Derek on September 25, 2009, 13:09 GMT

    One thing is certain, WI cricket management walked around with their head in the cloud for too long ; therefore missing out on a great opportunity which the likes of England seized upon during the Zimbabwean isolation years.

    What remains now is for WI, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia et al to seek to form a league which allows their emerging players greater exposure. Through co-operation they might even be able to establish a credible format which could later include the US and Canada with big money backer(s).

    The WI need a greater pool of talent and resources from which to source its future world class players.

    Over the years England with an extensive county setup still recruits its BEST players and coaches from SA, Zimbabwe and Australia , perhaps the WI need a modern day version of the arrival of the Pinta, Nina and Santa Maria turning up on its shores....

  • Rajasundram on September 24, 2009, 14:14 GMT

    The second string Aussies were still good enough to beat India, whereas the second string West Indies lost to Bangladesh. The Aussie had a very efficient Administrative team and a strong 'bench strength', whereas in the case of the West Indies the players are fighting the Administrators - therein lies the difference At a time when Test cricket is under the microscope, we cannot have below strength teams playing - to do so would give more ammunition to those who want to get rid of Test cricket. Siva from Singaore

  • Douglas on September 24, 2009, 11:57 GMT

    @lucyferr - the fact remains that Julian Hunte and his cronies prevented the West Indies A Team from participating. What planet r u on? Have you heard or Dinanath Ramnarine and his WIPA and I say "his WIPA" deliberately! Did he have no part in the current matter? The problem has been too many people have jumped on the Board and made the players believe that all is well with their attitude and poor performance. The general sentiment is if the admin got it right the team would perform. Sorry to say but that is not so. The Board's management of WI cricket has been disgraceful but WIPA and the team have made significant contributions to the disaster. It is time for new heads on BOTH sides. As long as the players hang on to Ramnarine there will be no improvement in our cricket. Congrats to the current team for how they performed yesterday. For once the WI have earned the credit of the public.

  • Derek on September 24, 2009, 11:44 GMT

    I have repeating myself. but have to say is o our friend from singapore who suggests the Australians should refuse entertaining a second string WI. My friend thanks to the action of the 'elite' squad the shortcomings and mismanagement of WI cricket along with no regard for structure and grassroot development is there for the WORLD to see. Why isn't it that the WI have players queing up for a chance to break into the elite squad, if life is so rosy when players eventually get there? Why is it that someone like Daren Ganga have to go through so many hoops just to get time off to represent T&T? National pride and PROFESSIONAL sports got divorced a long time ago. Today's star player is tomorrows Mr NOBODY. Unfortunately the WI situation has become so cloudy such that the less informed look at it relative to what they earn rather than the arena in which the players operate. I lived thru the Kerry Packer years and the second string players were good enough to make a difference.

  • Jonathan on September 24, 2009, 10:20 GMT

    The "Wanderers" did a lot off the wicket especially in terms of bounce. This WI outfit was too timid to handle that ! Chanderpaul - Gayle - Sarwan - Bravo would have loved the ball coming at that pace.. Not to be though !! The Centurion and Wanderers are showing total opposite Characteristics. Teams playing on both trax might show 'contrast performances' without a doubt.. - Food for thought > Captains -

  • Rajasundram on September 24, 2009, 10:08 GMT

    Sir Frank Worrell must be turning in his grave at the direction in which the West Indies cricket is moving. He was one man who instilled pride into the players and how nobly they responded, The baton was passed on in turn to Sir Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Sir Vivian Richards - all men fiercely proud of their heritage.

    Will the West Indies cricket rise to their former glory - only time will tell, but things look gloomy.

    Australia should refuse to entertain the second string WI team.

    Siva from Singapore

  • Len on September 24, 2009, 9:20 GMT

    Though WIndies made a game of it against Pakistan, their critics have to speak the truth about the team if they want it to eventually improve. On the credit side, it was nice to hear about the enthusiasm and application of the team, I am expecting them to keep those traits going throughout the tournament EVEN IF THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE GOING AGAINST THEM. On the deficit side, The batting, as was expected have no technique or patience if the ball is moving about. Tino best has been around the international set up for around 5 years and STILLl does not know how to bowl a good line. Gavin Tonge bowled well, but he should not be craving for wickets which help him, he should be thinking about how to bowl well on WICKETS THAT WON'T GIVVE HIM HELP of which there will be many should he play international cricket for a long period.

  • lucy on September 24, 2009, 5:37 GMT

    While I definitely appreciate getting a glimpse of a hitherto ignored aspect of the saga, the fact remains that Julian Hunte and his cronies prevented the West Indies A Team from participating. It would have been great to see this side supplemented by Gayle, Chanderpaul, Sarwan, and Bravo. As for Tonge - kudos to him, but one game does not a reputation make. Given his mature and humble attitude, it's likely that he already knows this - so best of luck to him! It is unfortunate for his future career that chingoka clones like Hunte will remain in charge of the Windies.

  • Joey on September 24, 2009, 5:13 GMT

    i objected to this team, i bemoaned their performance against Bangladesh, i watched with dismay as South Africa blew them away and Sri Lanka squashed them without much trouble. And i STILL disapprove of the board's handling of this situation... but i was proud of them in the Pakistan innings today. I expect they'll still get three beatings, but they didn't do badly at all, and i hope some of these guys find their way into a team that includes the big guns. I also hope they keep it up for a few days at least... both India and Australia are capable of cleaning the floor with a team that lets the intensity drop. Some decent batting would also be nice.

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