October 29, 2010

Bowling West Indies' biggest worry

The batting has slipped a bit too, but West Indies' attack has been the worst in Test cricket over the last three years

In a little over two weeks West Indies will be taking on a challenge that is among the toughest in Test cricket: a tour to Sri Lanka. The magnitude of the task before West Indies is obvious from the following two stats: in the last six years, Sri Lanka's win-loss record at home is next only to Australia's; meanwhile, West Indies' away record during this period is the worst among all teams (excluding Zimbabwe, who've only played four away Tests during this period).

That West Indies have fallen from the lofty perch they occupied in the 1980s and 90s is obvious, but what still boggles the mind is the extent to which they've slipped. According to the ICC rankings, they're seventh in Tests - barely above New Zealand - and eighth in ODIs, only a few decimal points better than Bangladesh. Since January 2004, they've won a mere five Tests, and never more than one in any given year. During this period they've lost 37, which has ensured that their overall win-loss ratio has dipped below one (152 wins, 154 losses in 465 matches). After the three Tests in Sri Lanka, it's almost certain that the gap between wins and losses will increase further.

The table below lists West Indies' year-wise performances in Tests since 2000. What is immediately apparent is the manner in which their bowling has completely fallen away since Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose retired: in every year since 2003, the bowling average for West Indies has exceeded 40, which is a shocking stat for a team who, not that long ago, used to boast some of the greatest fast bowlers to have ever played the game. During this period their batting average has been at least 10 fewer than their bowling average every year, while the batting average has exceeded 30 only once, in 2004. The last four years have been poor, and the two heavy defeats against South Africa in 2010 means the difference this year is nearly 25.

West Indies in Tests since 2000
Year Tests Won/ Lost Ratio Bat ave Bowl ave Diff
2000 14 4/ 7 0.57 20.45 27.14 -6.69
2001 11 2/ 6 0.33 28.31 35.04 -6.73
2002 14 4/ 6 0.67 29.65 33.42 -3.77
2003 10 3/ 5 0.60 29.94 45.11 -15.17
2004 12 1/ 8 0.12 32.20 42.68 -10.48
2005 11 1/ 8 0.12 27.37 41.88 -14.51
2006 10 0/ 5 0.00 28.59 40.85 -12.26
2007 5 1/ 3 0.33 25.96 40.39 -14.43
2008 9 1/ 5 0.20 28.47 42.75 -14.28
2009 12 1/ 6 0.16 28.76 44.95 -16.19
2010 3 0/ 2 0.00 25.36 49.73 -24.37

In the last three years West Indies' bowling average has been the worst among all teams, including Bangladesh. In these 24 Tests they've conceded nearly 45 runs per wicket. Kemar Roach is the only one of their bowlers who has taken more than 25 wickets during this period at an average of less than 30. Sulieman Benn, the highest wicket-taker, with 50, averages more than 40 runs per wicket.

Team-wise bowling averages in Tests since Jan 2008
Team Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
South Africa 28 462 30.58 57.2 15/ 2
England 36 571 31.67 61.4 29/ 3
Australia 35 601 32.79 61.8 20/ 3
New Zealand 25 381 34.99 69.7 10/ 0
Pakistan 17 254 35.35 63.8 12/ 0
Sri Lanka 20 302 36.66 67.4 15/ 3
India 30 447 38.46 72.4 12/ 2
Bangladesh 19 231 44.11 76.7 12/ 0
West Indies 24 299 44.60 81.1 10/ 0

The sorry state of West Indies' bowling attack is further illustrated by checking out the averages of their highest wicket-takers in the last eight years. Only eight bowlers have taken more than 50 Test wickets during this period, of which two - Corey Collymore and Pedro Collins - have managed sub-35 averages. All the others have had to toil much more, with the averages for five of them either closing in on, or exceeding, 40. During the golden years in the 1980s, all eight bowlers who took more than 50 wickets in the decade did so at averages of less than 30. That's obviously a feat that can't be achieved in today's bat-dominated era, but West Indian fans would be justified in expecting from their bowlers significantly better numbers than they are managing currently.

West Indies bowlers in Tests since 2003 (Qual: 50 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Corey Collymore 29 92 31.46 66.2 4/ 1
Pedro Collins 15 52 33.00 59.0 1/ 0
Jerome Taylor 29 82 35.64 60.1 3/ 0
Dwayne Bravo 37 83 39.39 74.2 2/ 0
Fidel Edwards 43 122 39.43 59.5 8/ 0
Sulieman Benn 15 50 40.92 85.1 3/ 0
Chris Gayle 60 64 41.90 95.2 2/ 0
Daren Powell 33 73 50.87 86.3 1/ 0

The batting has suffered too, but the decline hasn't been as pronounced when compared to their numbers in earlier decades. Comparing West Indies' decade-wise batting stats since 1970 shows that their batting average dropped from 33.05 in the 1980s to 27.89 in the 1990s, and it stayed there between 2000 and 2009. The bowling, on the other hand, has been in freefall.

Decade-wise batting and bowling stats for West Indies
Decade Tests Bat ave 100s/ 50s Bowl ave Strike rate
1970s 63 34.54 68/ 147 33.49 80.3
1980s 82 33.05 75/ 172 25.02 56.8
1990s 81 27.89 55/ 162 29.23 64.5
2000s 108 27.89 94/ 233 38.45 74.6
2010 3 25.36 2/ 6 49.73 101.6

While the bowling has little to recommend itself, the batting has at least offered something to cheer about. When they have played, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan have all been among the runs. Chanderpaul has clearly been the leader, averaging almost 65 since 2008 and almost 54 since 2003. Those are easily stats that compare favourably with the best batsmen in the world, something that can't be said for any of West Indies' bowlers during the last 10 years.

However, despite these few batting stars, West Indies' overall batting stats over the last three years are among the worst when compared to other teams. Part of the reason for this has been the absence of top players for some matches recently. Despite this, their overall batting average in these three years is better than those of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Darren Sammy, the new captain, has promised a fresh approach in Sri Lanka, but given the lack of bowling firepower, especially in the sort of conditions that are likely to prevail in Sri Lanka, West Indies' bowlers could be in for another hiding. How well the batsmen perform could well decide how much they push Sri Lanka.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • anik on November 4, 2010, 18:22 GMT


  • nalok on November 3, 2010, 13:10 GMT

    where has the promising reon king and jermaine lawson been gone....? even adam sanford troubled the little maestro a great deal last time round..

  • John on November 1, 2010, 14:00 GMT

    When the WI players were due to play the Sandford match against an England XI (for $1m each), they spent a month preparing - the result was an overwhelming victory. The problem with the current generation of players is they do not show the same dedication or enthusiasm for international cricket generally. Their strike record however is impressive. (I mean refusing to play rather than wickets or runs)

  • Dummy4 on November 1, 2010, 8:30 GMT

    the problem with west Indies Cricket is that they don't get much of International cricket..u compare the number of tests or ODI's played in a year or so with some other top teams...then how come you would expect them to perform.. :-(..m a fan of windies cricket ..i feel sad for this..Ram naresh sarwan must have been in team which palying SL...he did well in sub continent wickets...its going to be tough for WI in srilanka with this bowling attack...all the best..

  • Brahan on October 31, 2010, 11:47 GMT

    According to cricket as of now , all the teams are equally powerful.... WI had a time where they saw only victories..This is the time for them to see the defeats... No one can replace Marshal,Holding,Ambrose,Garner,etc....Its time for WI to look for young bowlers with more pace..

  • Dummy4 on October 30, 2010, 23:52 GMT

    Brandon Bess, Gabreil and holder are promising names just like Fidel and taylor and they are being ill treated by the board just hope wi get it together cause they cant bowl otu teams twice in test cricket

  • Dummy4 on October 30, 2010, 12:24 GMT

    what the hell is happening to cricket mate. we used to called it a men's game but now look it West indies, Pakistan, NewZealand and Zimbabwe.These countries were the best to watch, I don't even think for once that west indies will repeat its history, what they were before. I believe cricket is becoming boring maybe I might be wrong but this 20/20 cricket wasted this great game. I don't think there would another Lara for West indies, Pakistan won't have another Imran khan, New Zealand had the most talented team but due to some unsuccessful cricketers sitting in the selection committee and make selfish decisions,they destroyed NZ cricket. Zimbabwe was a great team, Neil Johnson, Ervin,Olanga and many more like them left the cricket for the sake of politics, what a shame. I wish if there was no 20/20 cricket, this beautiful game would have more credibility then It does in now day. I am a cricketer and I feel for this great game which is losing its moral ground.there is no Professionalism

  • Faraz on October 30, 2010, 10:38 GMT

    I totally agree that WI bowling is fallen too much, but WI fielders also need to blame for that WI fielding also dropped upto lowest levels. The reason may seems to me WI team doesn't like to enjoy the wining, when ever they come to close a victory normally bowlers gave up 20 to 25 runs easily in 1 over to any batsmen of any oponant & eventualy you see the smile on WI players!!This shows me that WI players enjoy to loose never want to win..ICC should ban WI atleast from tests for life time. I am WI fan & cant see that mush loosing v.poor performance since last decade,so either ICC or WI should voluntierly leave TEST status for minimum 20 years. WI bating seems to have talent but they never want to capitalize. Even Great LARA havent that records as of his talent, he didn;t do justice to his talent.

  • Ian on October 30, 2010, 5:43 GMT

    The chickens have come home to roost. You have to be able to develop pace bowlers.

    The problem is fast bowling coaches do not know HOW to. It's no good appointing former players all the time just because they PLAYED test cricket. You have to understand what to do to develop speed and accuracy.

    All fast bowling standards are totally random otherwise - meaning if you get a good crop of kids you are just 'blessed'.

    I hope this at last dispels the myth put about by poor coaches that fast bowlers are born and not made.

  • Dummy4 on October 30, 2010, 3:36 GMT

    I think other teams batting averages are much higher than these.So you can't say west Indies batting averages have not dropped dramatically. Would like to see bowling averages after Walsh/Ambrose left and Batting averages after Lara left.

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