Will West Indies rise to the Australian challenge?
By the time the five-match ODI series between West Indies and Australia concludes on March 25, the two teams will have played 130 one-day internationals against each other, which will be the second-highest number of matches between two teams, next only to the 134 between India and Sri Lanka. That number reflects the history between those two teams, who've played out some epic matches in the past, including the World Cup final in 1975 and the semi-final in 1996. What it doesn't show, though, is how that rivalry has fallen away over the last decade (as indeed has almost every rivalry involving West Indies).
In the early days, it was a contest dominated by West Indies. They beat Australia in their first two meetings, in the 1975 World Cup and then again twice in the 1983 edition. However, the West Indian dominance over Australia was best illustrated by their results in the triangular tournaments in Australia. In the 1980s, West Indies were easily the biggest draw in world cricket, and hence the most regular visitors to Australia for the one-day tournaments there. Between 1981 and 1990, they toured Australia five times for these triangular tournaments, and lifted the cup four times, missing out only in 1987, when England were the winners. In these five tournaments they played Australia as many as 36 times, winning 25 and losing ten. They included fearful hidings by a 6-1 margin in 1984, and by 7-1 the following year.
In the 1990s, Australia gradually began to even the scores. In 1991 they toured the West Indies and achieved an unprecedented 4-1 result in the ODI series. It was the first time West Indies had lost a one-day series at home. Apart from that, there were also crucial wins for Australia in the 1996 and 1999 World Cups.
|Team 1||Team 2||Matches||T1 won||T2 won||Tie/ NR|
|India||Sri Lanka||134||71||51||1/ 11|
|Pakistan||Sri Lanka||127||75||47||1/ 3|
|Australia||West Indies||125||63||57||2/ 3|
|Australia||New Zealand||124||85||34||0/ 5|
|West Indies||Pakistan||120||66||52||2/ 0|
Since 2000, though, the tables have turned on West Indies completely. In 33 matches they've lost 26 and won just five. In fact, till October 31, 2006, West Indies were still in front by a 57-51 margin. Since then, though, they've lost each of their 12 completed matches against Australia to go from six in front to six behind. Which also means that the last time they beat Australia in an ODI was on October 18, 2006, in a Champions Trophy game in Mumbai, when they edged a ten-run win. Since then, they've lost two Champions Trophy matches, a World Cup game, a five-match home series, and four matches in Australia. (Click here for the list of ODI results between Australia and West Indies.)
Of the five wins that West Indies have managed against Australia since 2000, three have been at home, which should offer some encouragement to them ahead of the five-match series, but all three were in dead rubbers in the seven-match series in 2003.
|Period||Matches||Aus won||WI won||Tie/ NR|
|Till Dec 1989||53||17||35||1/ 0|
|2000 onwards||33||26||5||0/ 2|
West Indies have been a pretty poor ODI team since the beginning of 2000 (they haven't done a whole lot better in Tests), and, not unexpectedly, Australia have dominated them more than any other side.
Since 2000, West Indies have won more ODIs than they've lost against only two sides (among those against whom they've played more than ten matches): Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Against all other sides they've lost more, in varying degrees. Australia have been among the most difficult oppositions for their batsmen and bowlers: the West Indian batsmen have scored four centuries against them in 324 innings, and average less than 25 runs per dismissal. The bowlers haven't had it easy either, conceding more than 40 per wicket and almost five-and-a-half runs to the over.
|Opposition||Matches||W/ L||Ratio||Bat ave/ RR||Bowl ave/ ER|
|Zimbabwe||35||25/ 9||2.77||34.28/ 4.94||23.66/ 4.14|
|Bangladesh||17||11/ 4||2.75||36.54/ 4.95||20.41/ 4.15|
|England||25||10/ 13||0.76||31.30/ 5.04||29.35/ 5.06|
|India||43||17/ 25||0.68||31.92/ 5.07||34.53/ 5.27|
|Pakistan||30||10/ 20||0.50||26.57/ 4.63||28.41/ 4.59|
|Sri Lanka||18||5/ 11||0.45||25.86/ 4.54||34.35/ 4.96|
|New Zealand||26||5/ 16||0.31||26.07/ 4.69||36.36/ 5.19|
|South Africa||33||6/ 26||0.23||27.70/ 4.79||44.71/ 5.23|
|Australia||33||5/ 26||0.19||24.04/ 4.74||41.84/ 5.44|
Going into this home series against Australia, it's also clear that West Indies haven't made the most of the advantage of playing in familiar conditions either. They've won only 14 out of 51 home games against the top sides, and even that's a bit inflated: their last four ODI wins at home have all been in dead rubbers, when they won the last two matches against Pakistan and India after losing the first three and the series. Their last win in a live series at home was 16 matches ago, against India in 2009.
Australia will clearly start off as favourites, but they have a few battles of their own, with injuries and a hectic schedule suggesting that some of their players may not be at their best. They won the CB Series at home but struggled throughout against Sri Lanka - the batting was inconsistent and the bowlers were exposed by Sri Lanka's aggression and intent. Can Dwayne Bravo and Co do the same in home conditions over the next ten days?
|Team||ODIs||W/ L||Ratio||Bat ave/ RR||Bowl ave/ ER|
|India||87||57/ 26||2.19||39.74/ 5.69||32.14/ 5.38|
|South Africa||58||37/ 17||2.17||35.26/ 5.41||28.02/ 4.98|
|Australia||83||53/ 25||2.12||34.40/ 5.31||26.93/ 4.92|
|Sri Lanka||52||25/ 22||1.13||28.30/ 4.77||27.15/ 4.74|
|England||66||29/ 30||0.96||31.71/ 5.26||32.29/ 5.19|
|New Zealand||54||23/ 25||0.92||31.09/ 5.43||35.35/ 5.30|
|Pakistan||25||11/ 14||0.78||31.79/ 5.10||35.93/ 5.34|
|West Indies||51||14/ 35||0.40||28.00/ 4.94||35.52/ 5.20|
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter