George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
"Rally … rally round the West Indies," urges David Rudder in the song that is the West Indies cricket team's anthem. He implores their supporters not to desert them now that times are hard. West Indies are usually most fans' second team, with good reason too. They played cricket with enviable style, a light-heartedness that reminded us that this is only a game after all, and yet with considerable skill.
Not this West Indian team, though. They have given their supporters little cause to rally round them through this World Cup, and - apart from a Chris Gayle salvo - they were hollow during their quarter-final exit in Wellington.
There were predictions - from people as respected as Graeme Smith - that West Indies wouldn't make it past the group stage. That view gathered support once they were beaten by Ireland. And even after they qualified for the final eight - amid widespread empathy for the unsuccessful but spirited Irish challenge - West Indies themselves acknowledged they hadn't been fancied to get this far. All of that should have fired them up for a winner-takes-all match against one of the two hottest sides in the World Cup. New Zealand had everything to lose, and yet West Indies were flat long before Martin Guptill flattened them.
There was no excuse for how West Indies played the first delivery of the game. Guptill punched down the ground but neither the captain Jason Holder nor Sulieman Benn immediately chased after the ball from mid-off and mid-on. They woke up too late to the fact the ball was slowing down drastically and it only trickled on to the boundary by the time they got there. Had New Zealand been in the field, Brendon McCullum would have been in hot pursuit with tunnel vision. Two balls later Marlon Samuels - who had not trained on the eve of the match - dropped a firmly-struck but extremely catchable catch at square leg. Guptill was on 4 at the time, he made 233 more.
That the first ten overs of a game are crucial is a bleeding obvious cricket truth, but it is truer for a team as fragile as this West Indies side. In the field - and perhaps in temperament too - they do not have the depth to recover from a poor start. There was a spark when Holder redeemed himself with an athletic outfield catch that ranked among the best of this World Cup but it did not ignite West Indies. They drowned in lethargic fielding and poor bowling.
The West Indies fast bowlers found no swing or seam movement with the new ball, and when the spinner Benn was brought on in the ninth over he found no spin. Without assistance from the conditions, and with only one genuine wicket-taker - they were over dependent on batsmen making errors. McCullum and Kane Williamson paid for their mistakes. But Guptill capitalised on his let-off and he, with the more sedate Ross Taylor for company, sped along at more than five an over without having to take a chance.
In the 31st over, Guptill was on 86 - New Zealand were 161 for 2 - when he mis-timed a loft to long-on. He grimaced instantly. He's used to his team's fast bowlers charging in from the boundary and attempting unreasonably athletic catches - like Adam Milne did against England and Tim Southee against Bangladesh. Jerome Taylor ran out of the shadows at long-on but once he realised he may not get to the catch, he slowed and collected the ball on the bounce. A dive might have cost West Indies a trifle but what is three runs in the face of 393? They needed desperation from Taylor, for him to put everything on the line, to strive and conjure a wicket, if only to lift his team-mates.
Holder chose to bowl Darren Sammy, a bowler with only one wicket in the World Cup, at the start of the batting Powerplay, a time when New Zealand were clearly going to make their move, having eight wickets in hand. Their run rate was still below six an over. Ross Taylor cut the second ball between backward point and short third man. Jerome Taylor began to run after it, but Lendl Simmons did not. Collective pursuit of a single ball isn't a widespread sight among cricket teams yet, but pioneers New Zealand had four players - including old man Daniel Vettori - chase after one tonight despite having the luxury of a gargantuan total. Their hunger is obvious; West Indies' is not.
There were so few dives from the West Indies fielders that when the substitute Nikita Miller put in a couple towards the end of the New Zealand innings, they stood out. Johnson Charles over-ran the ball clumsily and allowed a boundary, and in the final over Andre Russell was slumped, head down, hands on his knees after another Guptill boundary. It was a sight few people wanted to see.
What does it say about a team's performance when their best player was someone who had a bad back - Chris Gayle laboured in the field and while running between wickets - and then suffered a groin niggle, and yet took two catches and clubbed 61 off 33 balls? Holder had said on the eve of the match that they would "fight fire with fire". Unfortunately there was none of that from most of his charges.
"But down here," Rudder sings in his first verse, "just a kink in the armour, is enough, enough to lose a friend." It isn't just a kink anymore, though, and it hasn't been for a while. West Indies need to give reasons to rally round them again.