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Match Analysis

End of an era as West Indies' greatest hits fall flat

Awesome foursome of Gayle, Bravo, Russell and Pollard can't prevent title defence from flopping

Deivarayan Muthu
October 7, 2012. Marlon Samuels devours Lasith Malinga and Sri Lanka as West Indies win their first T20 World Cup title. Their coruscating T20I reign begins there and runs until....
...November 4, 2021, when it comes to a grinding halt at the hands of Sri Lanka in the UAE.
It was Chris Gayle who led West Indies' rousing celebrations nearly a decade ago in Colombo, with press-ups and Gangnam Style jigs as Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard all cheered him on. The quartet go on to become the face, heart, and soul of T20 cricket around the world.
Once the West Indies board underwent a revamp, with Ricky Skerritt taking over from Dave Cameron, their grand plan was to get the old rock band back together in 2019. Pollard was appointed West Indies' white-ball captain under a new administration, Bravo decided to come out of T20I retirement for his last dance. Gayle pushed himself on to another World Cup, becoming the oldest player at the tournament at 42. You can probably hear Russell's knee rattle when he runs into bowl, but he, too, is in for another tilt at the world title.


On Thursday, West Indies, the defending champions, are up against Sri Lanka, who had to play the qualifier to make the tournament proper. Former captain Daren Sammy keeps repeating on the TV commentary that West Indies' legacy is on the line. After losing three tosses, Pollard finally wins one and opts to bowl first in Abu Dhabi. But his bowling attack never really turns up, as has been the case throughout the tournament.
West Indies' success in 2012 and 2016 was built around a versatile attack. Samuel Badree gave nothing away in the powerplay; he was superbly backed up by Sunil Narine (in 2012) and Suleiman Benn (2016) in the powerplay. In 2016, Bravo was at the peak of his T20 powers while Carlos Brathwaite and Sammy also pitched in with the ball.
In this edition of the tournament, their bowling attack has been fragile although Jason Holder's late inclusion in the main squad did make it look slightly better. Ravi Rampaul, who was part of West Indies' title-winning team in 2012, is now 37-years-old. Sure, he bowled some tough overs for Trinbago Knight Riders on his return to the CPL, but it was a gamble to pick him as one of the frontline seamers after just one good season.
Fabian Allen was originally lined up to do the role that Benn did with the ball five years ago, but an injury sidelined him from the tournament. Akeal Hosein had one of the best economy rates in the most recent CPL, however, couldn't find similar control in the UAE. Bravo was in hot form for Chennai Super Kings in their run to the IPL title, but cooled off so much that he conceded 42 runs in his four overs against Sri Lanka. It was his third-worst analysis in what could be his second-last T20I.
All up, West Indies' attack picked up only 14 wickets in four innings at an average of 37.71. Only India and Netherlands have taken fewer wickets in the tournament, having played one game fewer.
Oshane Thomas, who bowled with renewed vigour for Barbados Tridents in the CPL, could have added some extra pace and fizz to the attack, but West Indies were rigid with their combination and didn't use him at all.


How about their batting? It was just as one-dimensional, with their high-risk six-or-nothing approach failing them in the UAE. West Indies' dot-ball percentage of 45.70 was the third worst in the tournament, behind Namibia and Scotland. Lendl Simmons epitomised West Indies' batting struggles when he dawdled to 16 off 35 balls in a match-losing innings against South Africa.
The big four - Gayle, Pollard, Russell and Bravo - couldn't get the big hits away either. Against Sri Lanka, Gayle chipped left-arm seamer Binura Fernando to mid-on. Russell was bounced out by Chamika Karunaratne while both Pollard and Bravo were done in by sharp wrong'uns from Wanindu Hasaranga.
Sri Lanka aced their match-ups and Pollard would later admit that West Indies lacked enough game-smarts.
The old band is now breaking up and the search for a new one is already on. In a way, the fading seniors have already passed the baton to Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran, who hit 81 and 46 respectively even as West Indies crashed out. Pollard has tipped them to be the future batting leaders, but the prospects do look bleak on the bowling front. Who is the next big T20 spinner after Sunil Narine? Who is the next big T20 fast bowler from the Caribbean?
Pollard, Gayle, Bravo and Russell transformed West Indies into the first great men's T20I team and revolutionised the format, but winds of change are already beginning to blow through Caribbean cricket.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo