June 15, 2013

West Indies' ball-beaters are too unreliable

They may be the star attractions of a Twenty20 slog-fest, but in the Champions Trophy, West Indies' batsmen have been disappointingly inconsistent

Kieron Pollard is accustomed to his big blows winning games, not losing them. But yesterday was an ironic exception.

His miscued swing off the very first ball of a new spell from Ryan McLaren proved to be the very last of the match. The problem was that it resulted in a catch to Dale Steyn that cost West Indies a place in the Champions Trophy semi-finals. Dwayne Bravo's first official assignment as captain had ended in frustration that could have been avoided.

The vagaries of the Duckworth-Lewis of calculation in rain-affected matches meant that by that first ball of the 27th over, West Indies, not South Africa, would have been home and dry in the rain had a wicket not fallen at that stage. Instead, Pollard's wild shot and Steyn's catch produced a rare D/L tie.

West Indies' eight-wicket loss to India with nearly a full ten overs to spare had come back to hurt Dwayne Bravo's side. Net run rate was the architect of their exit.

Naturally, Bravo pointed to the role the rain played in his side's failure to reach the knockout stage. "We were aware of the weather," he said. "It is difficult to judge when rain will come. When we thought rain would come, we stepped it up. We played hard today. The way we played we deserved to finish with a better result, but it is out of our control."

In the team post-mortem of the match and tournament though, more deep-lying reasons for West Indies' short campaign should become evident. For one thing, the team's obvious strength on paper - its batting - once more proves to be its undoing. As devastating a team of ball-beaters as the West Indies batsmen are, they are also unreliable. Once more that lack of consistent production when it mattered cost the team dearly.

In a tournament where sides often need to make 300 to really feel they have a winning chance, Bravo's men managed just 233 for 9 in the one match they needed to set a target, against the in-form Indians. The Indian batsmen got those runs with so many overs to spare that West Indies' two-wicket win against Pakistan was neutralised.

Yet again, the problems began at the very top. While their counterparts from India and South Africa produced opening stands of 101 and 80 respectively to lay solid foundations for their sides, West Indies openers Chris Gayle and Johnson Charles managed 25 against India and 35 against South Africa. In the opening game against Pakistan, the two managed just 11.

Gayle was his usual devastating self in the IPL that had just ended. But his output for West Indies since last year's World Twenty20 triumph has not been prolific. In this series, he always got starts -- 39 against Pakistan, 21 against India and 36 against South Africa. But Gayle never batted beyond the 17th over in any match. And while Charles made a good 60 against India, he did not carry on in the way that Shikhar Dhawan has done to great effect.

Gayle's success or failure was always going to be a key to how West Indies would fare. Marlon Samuels, whose year has been disrupted by injury, could not find the rhythm of last year at the World Twenty20, Ramnaresh Sarwan continued to struggle since returning to international cricket, and the captain, his younger brother Darren and Pollard were all guilty of not finishing the job when they got going.

The one who did his reputation no harm was Darren Sammy. Relieved of the one-day leadership starting with this tournament, and left out of the opening match, he again showed what good temperament he has with a dashing 56 that revived a flagging innings against India. The controversy surrounding wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin and his two-match ban for his claimed non-catch was a distraction the team could have done without. But his absence at least allowed Sammy to show he is not surplus to requirements in this format.

Batsman-friendly pitches have proved a challenge for all bowlers, but the lack of early wickets outside of Kemar Roach's opening burst against Pakistan that took out Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shafiq did not help West Indies' cause.

Skipper Bravo was good with the ball and aggressive and pro-active in the field. However, such enterprise will come to nought in the long run until West Indies get serious with their batting. More of the line-up must take responsibility for the innings. They simply must.

Friday's outcome could have been different, for instance, had Samuels not premeditated an uncharacteristic swipe at Steyn off the second ball of the 24th over. With 48 to his name, he was accelerating beautifully, effortlessly. His wicket in hand was more vital than a boundary just then. And how Pollard must wish he could get back the first ball of over 27.

Good judgement went out the window in two key moments. Too often West Indies suffer for such self-inflicted wounds, discretion suffering for flamboyance.

Bravo was left looking at the rain and with fleeting hope at the umpires. His first assignment had come to a rather sloppy end. But if his stint in the captaincy is to really make a difference, Bravo may have to tweak West Indies' style.

For best results, the Gangnam dancers may have to become blue-collar workers. Just a bit.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Len on June 17, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    As a WIndian fan, I have absolutely NO SYMPATHY for WIndies, they deserve and got nothing. The post match stupid comments by Bravo about the weather illustrates why we're useless at 50 overs and Test cricket. I wanted to hear him talk about the pathetic performance against India when we just wanted to hit 4s and 6s and refused to look for singles and twos. I wanted to hear him talk about the attack that throughout the innings kept bowling short and wide and was cut and pulled with ridiculous ease, because that loss is the major reason why we're out of the competition. Until we have a Captain and Coach that can analyse our performances in thorough detail instead of talking incoherent rubbish, we're always going to fail when the pressure is on.

  • Shawn on June 17, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    @Warren Mendes, I agree, had Pollard gotten half inch more wood on the ball he would have been a hero, instead a difficult catch was taken (not an easy catch by any means @everfaithful), and WI tied the game. I think Wattley made the point quite clearly that our game against India is what cost us our place in the semis, because rain or no rain the match could have tied, and it was our net RR that put us out. We await the upcoming triangular against India and Sri Lanka to see if any lessons were learned, as our good friends Duckworth and Lewis will no doubt play a huge role in that series in the Caribbean Rainy season.

  • Dummy4 on June 16, 2013, 17:35 GMT

    Of course, Mr Wattley, you would be saying ANY of this if Steyn had not made that final catch, would you? Instead you would have been praising the gile and cunning of WI to have worked the D/L rules in their favor. Pollard can be blamed for trying too big a shot on the final ball, but he didn't have any way of knowing that the game would be called off at that moment. As I followed the game on ESPN it seemed like the commentators were taken by surprise at the sudden stoppage. Had the game gone the full 31 overs of D/L cricket, then Pollards dismissal would have meant nothing with Sammy coming in and Bravo still at the crease. So I think that you and all the critics of this WI team who want to write them off as a group of brainless sloggers who don't have the intelligence to control their misplaced talent need to rethink your assessment.

  • Dummy4 on June 15, 2013, 16:29 GMT

    Pollard is so stupid. Im sure he was informed by the coach going out what the situation was and he still went out there and do that crap. Trust me the team knew the situation they were in. But as usual we loose our heads and do dumb stuff. Ugly wins are better that pretty losses and sometimes we get caught up in winning in style. If Chiv was on this team a cool head would have been around and once again we continue to give people like Gayle all kinds of big up and Gayle has never really performed in situations like this. Has Gayle ever really performed in a must win situation?

  • Matt on June 15, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    Great article Garth and i agree with you 100 percent plus all the other comments. I am a Windies die hard and watching that game was so painful at the send to see a tie. We wasted a lot of chances. What was Marlon thinking trying to play a bit hit against styne???, the run out of Bravo was stupid and very avoidable. Then Pollard trying a big shot at the end which wasn't called for i mean when will these batsmen learn to be patient at the Crease while playing ODI cricket. This format needs some patience and calculated shots like test cricket but the problem all these guys are more comfortable with T20 cricket but if we are to win more trophies, our batsmen need to learn to be patient and read the game better.

  • Hildreth on June 15, 2013, 11:51 GMT

    Yes I agree with you @Wayne Kangaloo this was really "brainless cricket" by the Windies batsmen in particular the dismissals of Samuels and Pollard. Having hit Dale Steyn for a boundary from the first ball of a new over SAMUELS attempted a repeat on the next ball that was homing in on his middle stump at great pace in the process losing his middle stump. At this time Samuels was just 2 runs shy of a half-century and Windies were gaining the upper hand. POLLARD was batting with his captain Bravo at the end of the 26th over with Windies ahead of D/L par score which was clearly displayed on electronic scoreboard at the ground. With Windies ahead and sure winners once no more wickets fell Pollard decides to try a heave over point only to provide an easy catch to third-man. What was Pollard thinking and what was captain Bravo saying to him re the threat of rain and D/L par score? Windies batsmen must stop trying to IMPRESS viewers and instead stay focused on doing what's best for the team.

  • Albert on June 15, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    "Too often West Indies suffer for such self-inflicted wounds, discretion suffering for flamboyance."

    That one sentence says it all.

  • Dummy4 on June 15, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    You are "spot on" Garth. Cricket matches are not won "on paper". Strategy and tactics are fundamental to success especially in "do or die" games. Brainless cricket has always been an issue with this team of "ball beaters" . Maybe a case is to be made for the return of Shiv "Tiger" Chanderpaul to the ODI squad? He is no Gangnam dancer but a true blue collar worker who, at age 39, has the experience, skill and "never say die" attitude to win us games like the one we tied yesterday.

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