West Indies in India 2011-12 December 4, 2011

West Indies must learn to win again

In every single match in India so far, West Indies have built up their supporters only to let them down by converting surprisingly strong positions into four defeats and one tie-draw

As popular and appropriate as it was at the time, David Rudder's converted anthem Rally Round the West Indies is wearing a little thin for cricket supporters despairing over whether there will ever be a revival.

Perhaps the more apt chorus would now come from The Foundations' hit of the late 1960s, Buttercup. Why do you build me up … just to let me down and mess around.

It has certainly been, once again, the theme in the current Tests and ODIs in India where, in every single match, the inexperienced West Indies have built us up only to let us down by converting surprisingly strong positions into four defeats and one tie-draw.

It is not a new phenomenon, although more pronounced, and thus more frustrating, over the past month or so. There have been several individual "positives", to use the favourite noun of all captains and coaches, but they are diminished by the results and the manner of them.

Darren Bravo confirmed his promise as a star of the future. Kirk Edwards' consistency at No.3 proved that his debut Test hundred in Dominica in July was no one-innings wonder. Marlon Samuels' now sanctioned off-spin has given the bowling a new dimension.

Ravi Rampaul maintained the form that made him the outstanding bowler in the Caribbean earlier in the year and there are gradual signs that Kemar Roach is regaining the confidence and penetration that made him such an effective leader of the attack on his entry into the team.

Without piling up big runs, Kraigg Brathwaite, 18, and Kieran Pollard, 21, showed they were more than just boys in a big man's world, showed their potential as batsmen with the potential for long and productive futures.

So why did West Indies repeatedly squander winning positions? Why did first-innings leads of 95 in the first Test and 108 in the third end in defeat in the first instance, a scrambled tie-draw in the second when a first innings total 590 was followed by a second innings 134?

The same questions could be repeated for the two ODIs to date.

In the first one-dayer, the pace of Roach and Andre Russell left India lurching at 59 for five in reply to a seemingly inadequate 211, only for them to recover and, finally, for the last pair to squeeze out the last 11 runs for victory by one wicket. West Indies helped them along with 16 wides and four no balls (each worth a free hit) in 23 extras, crippling statistics in a low-scoring match.

In the second, Rampaul's extraordinary record 66-ball, unbeaten 86 at No.10 and his last wicket partnership of 99 with the unruffled Roach was followed by India faltering at 84 for three in the 17th over. West Indies had reason to be bouyant but the balloon soon burst. They missed four catches, and flawed tactics subsequently allowed Virat Kohli (the same batsman whose dislike of bodyline bowling had been exposed in the Caribbean) and Rohit Sharma to comfortably gather singles to the deep-set fields. Inevitable victory was achieved with five wickets and 11 balls to spare.

West Indies "seemed to be trapped in a mindset that dooms them to failure". It is not a condition easily resolved.

So why does it all go so wrong so often?

To be sure, the failures with the bat of the wicketkeepers, Carlton Baugh and Denesh Ramdin, at No. 7 and captain Darren Sammy at No. 8, repeatedly opened the door to late order collapses. The bowling often went flat once the ball lost its shine and hardness.

To state that Chris Gayle's hypothetical inclusion would have been a boost of experience and proven record is to state the obvious, but it wasn't much different when he was in the XI.

The reasons for such stunning reversals go beyond cricket alone. As Harsha Bhogle, the writer and commentator, put it after the first Test, West Indies "seemed to be trapped in a mindset that dooms them to failure".

It is not a condition easily resolved. It is a truism applicable to all team sports that losing becomes a habit as much as winning, perhaps even more so.

Floyd Reifer, who is coach of the Barbados champions, University of the West Indies (UWI), and the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) at the regional level, and thus close to young charges, has identified one of his priorities. "Winning is part of development as well," he said recently, recognising that batting, bowling and fielding are not the be all and end all of his remit. "We have to create guys who, when they get into positions to win matches, know how to win them."

It is easier said than done but it must be an urgent priority for all West Indies' coaches, especially at the age-group levels.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • johnbarrow on December 5, 2011, 23:26 GMT

    Let Simmons keep wicket. Enough with Ramdin and Baugh.

  • johnbarrow on December 5, 2011, 23:24 GMT

    Great article Tony as usual. Have been following you for over 40 years. How about Simmons as keeper and No7 bat. Russell at 8, followed by Rampaul, Edwards and Bishoo. The first 6 are Barat, Braithwaite, Edwards, Bravo, Chanders, Samuel. Powell just at the outskirts. That would be a great batting and bowling team

  • dummy4fb on December 5, 2011, 13:11 GMT

    Sport remembers winners. and Tony is perfectly right in saying that the WI needs to learn to win. The attitude could be seen when they drew against India the third test match in the carribean and celebrated as if they had won a world cup. They have the firepower but what use is it if does not win matches. They do not believe that they can win matches. Poor and injudicious shots,lack of discipline in bowling and fielding are causing these. In my opinion the 80s winning side were the best side to watch and they had the mental belief and discipline A GOOD winning WI side is what cricket needs

  • Paceman49 on December 5, 2011, 12:51 GMT

    AFs_talyarkhan..I think that you should write you notes to yourself.Tony is a great writer and has seen great cricket in his time.He should not be giving the Indian team any credit.He is interested in getting W.I cricket back on track.If he had written a few months back that the Indian team was a joke you would or maybe agreed with him.England made them look foolish.W.I are not doing what it takes to win matches.The world knows that Kholi does not like the short ball at his body...yet we do not pressure him ..easy singles and easy runs with balls pitched where he likes it. Let us see what happens in Australia.Dravid and laxman had better be in their best form..The others cannot cut it against well prepared teams.Australia will catch and field better than W.I. Forget about Sammy and Gayle..there are many good young players in the W.I.We need selectors to select the best team available. Leave Tony alone and worry about your Indian commentators.They were bashing the team a few months back

  • dummy4fb on December 5, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    Sammy should remain the skipper of westindies he should work hard and lead the team from front as Shahid Afridi , M.s Dhoni, Kumar Sangakkara did in worldcup. Westindies have great tallent but they have no temprament. Westindies should be the great team in the future if they utilize their talent properly. Mean while Indians have great talent and they r world champions but they have no great bowling attavk as they world reknowned batsmans. Iam Pakistani but i love how they bat and how they snatch the game from the hands of opposition.

  • dummy4fb on December 5, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    @lugujaga you know nothing about cricket if sammy in your eyes is a fast bowler, AND NO IS ISN'T ONE ON THE BEST FIVE BOWLERS IN THE WI!!!!!!!!!! HE IS AT BEST A MEDIOCRE CLUB CRICKET.



  • muski on December 5, 2011, 8:50 GMT

    Well Tony- Just as winning is a habit loosing is also a habit. Its very difficult to get rid of it. With no offence to Windies cricket, you need to pack of Sammy ASAP. That he is a gentlemen, ever smiling guy is not in doubt. However that is not going to win you matches. Whatever the internal politics of WICB, you need a guy who can command respect from his mates- something that Iam afraid that Sammy is not able to generate given his bits and pieces batting and bowling and costly misses on the field.

  • dummy4fb on December 5, 2011, 8:39 GMT

    Dear Friends from West Indies. Though most of us Indians are fanatic supporters of our national team, you would be pleasantly surprised to know that there are hell of a lot of us who would love to see West Indies succeeding in all forms of Cricket. And also regaining the past glory. When India is not playing, most of Indian Cricket lovers always root for you. Wishing you all the best. You did play so well, in both the 1st & 2nd ODIs,and with a bit of luck, you might even have created some upset results. Luckily for us, we won both. Youngsters from both sides are playing well; and today let the best team win.

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on December 5, 2011, 8:23 GMT

    Tony Cozier is a legend but I think he is showing signs of boredom/ennui - this is a seriously lazy piece of writing, worthy of a hack getting his copy in before the deadlines rather than a considered piece of analysis from the doyen of West Indian cricket broadcasters. Cozier simply refuses to give the Indian team any credit when it is a fact that, in Indian conditions, the Indian team is well nigh invincible. The West Indians are a promising young team and Cozier's dismissal of their potential will not be of any benefit to them. Tony - if you have got nothing constructive to say - keep quiet! It is not like you need the money - remember quality is more important than quantity.

  • dummy4fb on December 5, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    Tony Cozier has got it all wrong! Instead of blaming the players, he should put the blame where it belongs, in the lap of the WICB. They have to be the most inept cricket board in the game. They have made numerous poor decisions with regard to player selection and tour arrangements. Let's take the 2009 tour of Australia as an example - the WI went to play 3 test matches. They had 1 match to adjust to Aussie conditions. Even though they lost 2-0, they were competitive. The players then had to return to the Caribbean around Xmas, no matches were arranged for them (they did not play any cricket). After Xmas they had to return to Australia for the ODI series. Meanwhile Australia kept playing against Pakistan. So when the WI returned, they were not in cricket-shape. The Aussies were and it showed on the field. How can anyone expect the WI to win in those circumstances? I can't think of any cricket board that would agree to those terms, except ofcourse the WICB!! Where is gayle & taylor!!

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