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Match Analysis

West Indies struggle with the basics. Again. And again. And again.

The portents from their Test and ODI decline suggest the way back might not be quite as straightforward

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
West Indies have found an unfortunate shortcut to go from zenith to nadir  •  AFP/Getty Images

West Indies have found an unfortunate shortcut to go from zenith to nadir  •  AFP/Getty Images

Ireland had nearly walked off the field before Odean Smith stopped glaring at Chris Gaffney. Mark Adair's wide yorker, the last ball of the West Indies innings, had landed well outside the tramline, but the umpire believed Smith had moved across enough to not call it a wide. Smith likely had a point, and looked West Indies' best batter of the innings.
But any amends Smith could make off one delivery would have been miniscule compared to the damage already inflicted through most of the innings. In the first powerplay, West Indies had nudged and nurdled their way to 41- for 2. Against Scotland in the previous game, Ireland had faced some criticism for the bowling options they went with at the death, and a quick West Indian start would have given Andy Balbirnie a headache he didn't need. Instead, there were 16 dot balls in the first five overs with only five boundaries, and 16 of the 32 they had scored until then came off a wayward Curtis Campher over.
It wasn't the only thing West Indies have done wrong, but Ireland's approach during the fielding restrictions threw it into sharp focus. Chasing a middling total, they might have been forgiven for not knowing whether to stick or twist. But even Ireland, who lost 9 of 12 T20Is in the summer, and only stayed alive in the tournament thanks to one sensational partnership on Wednesday, highlighted the value of making the most of the powerplay. Ireland would smash six fours and four sixes in the first six overs. The 64 they flew to by that time had taken West Indies a full nine overs to reach. Ireland maintained the three-over advantage till the end, coasting to victory with 15 balls to spare.
Since Carlos Brathwaite launched Ben Stokes four times on that Kolkata night, West Indies have lost six of the eight matches they have played in T20 World Cups. And it's this Hobart hammering that makes you suddenly realise how long ago that was. This West Indies side is a mere shadow of that one, and not merely because six years have lapsed. Over the course of three hours, Ireland systematically ripped away whatever little aura West Indies could still lay claim to, leaving them exposed to the disorganised shambles they now are in.
The overcorrection following a haphazard, frenetic batting performance against Zimbabwe might not have helped matters, but it didn't make the decision-making with the ball any less perplexing. Against Zimbabwe, Nicholas Pooran had held Alzarri Joseph, West Indies' best bowler, back until the third over. By the time he was introduced, Zimbabwe had flown to 28 without loss. In defence of an even lower total against Ireland, West Indies refused to pay heed to the warning signs, only turning to Joseph after 16 came off the previous over.
If the way Joseph was managed was questionable, Holder's complete non-use in the powerplay felt even more dubious. The former West Indian captain boasts a respectable T20I powerplay record, giving away runs at 7.92 per over while the field is up. Pooran would turn to Smith in the fourth over instead, whose economy rate in the powerplay is 11.18. The first three balls? Four, six, four.
West Indies have repeatedly dismissed the suggestion they need more spin options in their attack, even as spin crippled them through the middle overs against each of Scotland, Zimbabwe and Ireland. West Indies instead conspicuously left legspinner Yannic Cariah out despite an impressive warm-up game against Australia, seemingly refusing to consider that if spin troubled them, it could have a similar effect on their opponents. Even after the loss on Friday, head coach Phil Simmons - who previously coached Ireland - brushed aside the idea that leaving Akeal Hosein to operate alone on that front might have been an issue.
"Well, they have it and they choose to use it against us," he said. "Those teams play spin well, so we didn't think we needed it.
"I don't know [if there are short-term fixes]. We've got to go back and look at our structure and how we play the game and make sure that when we come to competitions and when we play in bilateral series we are ready and able to do what's necessary for each situation of the game."
Over these past three games, West Indies showed repeatedly they weren't able to do some of the most basic things. Kolkata to Hobart might be a long way, but West Indies seem to have found an unfortunate shortcut to go from zenith to nadir. The portents from their Test and ODI decline suggest the way back might not be quite as straightforward.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000