West Indies v Sri Lanka, World T20, Group F, Barbados May 7, 2010

Costly spills hurt West Indies

It will take something special to match the mix-up between Wavell Hinds and Andre Fletcher

There has been a yawning gap between the highlight-reel fielding at this tournament and those moments destined for the blooper video. The good has sometimes been spectacular but the bad has often been embarrassing. Saeed Ajmal laid a high marker to top the list after his three drops against England, but it will take something special to match the mix-up between Wavell Hinds and Andre Fletcher, which left both players starring at each other as the ball landed between them.

Mahela Jayawardene, well set on 66, went for a sweep off Sulieman Benn and got a top edge which looped high towards short third man. Fletcher looked at the chance but barely moved from his position behind the stumps, while Hinds took a couple of steps in from the fielding circle before stopping. It was a keeper's catch - if the man with the gloves can get near a chance he should go for it - but there appeared a complete breakdown in communication.

It summed up a West Indies performance that quickly disintegrated after a promising start with the new ball by Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach as six chances were missed. The hosts qualified with two group wins but momentum is fragile in Twenty20. Take your eye off the ball for a moment (and that happened in every sense) and a team can be on the back foot.

"It's a disappointing start but we had our chances and we let it slip away," Chris Gayle said. "They must be given credit for the way they batted after those chances. We were bowling at a guy in fine form and to give a guy like [Kumar] Sangakkara a chance, those guys can hurt you, which they did."

After seeing the bounce generated by Australia's quicks, Roach and Taylor also made life uncomfortable, but that was about as close as the comparison got to Michael Clarke's team. Taylor suffered most from fielding lapses as Sanath Jayasuriya was spilled at backward point in the second over by Kieron Pollard. Although that only cost a single, a much bigger error soon followed.

Taylor found the edge of Sangakkara's bat and Gayle, normally very safe at slip, couldn't take a low chance diving to his left. By the time Sangakkara eventually fell for 68 the partnership was worth 166. In between there had been other let-offs, too, and one brought the spotlight on West Indies' selection policy.

Fletcher has been given the keeping gloves in place of Denesh Ramdin after the specialist keeper was dropped following the opening game against Ireland. Four balls before the horrendous non-catch, Fletcher fluffed a stumping opportunity off Jayawardene. He isn't a complete novice behind the stumps, having kept extensively for Grenada and done the job during the Stanford tournament, but here he didn't look international quality.

Having your specialist wicketkeeper sat in the dug out seems an expensive luxury. Ramdin's form hadn't been good leading into the tournament, but once selected in the 15 it seems wasteful not to play him. If the selectors were so concerned they should have taken a drastic call before the event and dropped him in favour of another specialist. A part-time keeper is always a risk.

It has been done so West Indies can play an extra batsman, but the runs that keeping errors cost (and Jaywardene's missed stumped was worth 33) means it defeats the object of strengthening the line-up. Fletcher's case wasn't improved by his own painful innings of 16 from 18 balls, but by then the match was already lost.

"Ramdin has been struggling with the bat for the last couple of series and we want to play the extra batter," Gayle said. "So to try and balance the team we have given Fletcher the gloves and he's done well for us before."

It's a conundrum many sides have had, but quality keepers regularly show their worth in Twenty20. Most teams in this tournament are fortunate that their gloveman is also a frontline batsman - Sangakkara, MS Dhoni, Craig Kieswetter and Brad Haddin being top of the list - and it seems West Indies are trying to muddle their way there.

West Indies' fielding of recent times has always had the capacity to fall apart in dramatic style and unless they sharpen up their chances of progressing are slim, although they can take heart that Pakistan won last year despite, not because of, their fielding. However, West Indian heads collectively went down quickly as Jayawardene and Sangakkara produced a masterful partnership and now they must rise to beat India on Sunday.

"We'll discuss what happened today and it's back to the drawing board," Gayle said. "It is must-win for both teams and it should be a good game. We are still confident we can win the two games and move onto the semi-final."

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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