The West Indies had another mighty fall. It wasn’t a surprise since the team didn’t have the quality to progress in the Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. Yet, the first-round exit was totally unexpected.
Two wins were enough to make the Super 12s, and they couldn’t muster it. The early signs were ominous. The loss to Scotland in the first game should have been a wake-up call. Fast bowler Alzarri Joseph hauled the Caribbean side back into the race with a super spell to beat Zimbabwe. But Ireland were too powerful for the Nicholas Pooran-led West Indies in the Group B decider.
Ireland won by nine wickets with two overs to spare. That’s a rout. A drubbing. Hardly befitting the two-time champions. A stain on the rich history of Calypso cricketers. A history that includes wins in the first two World Cups (60-over Prudential Cup) in England and an extended reign as Clive Lloyd’s Invincibles in Tests of the late seventies and early eighties.
Flashback to the halcyon days
Caribbean cricketers are natural. Their ability to bowl fearsome pace is only matched by breathtaking strokeplay and electric fielding. From Sir Learie Constantine to Wes Hall, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Curtley Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, and many others have had batters quivering in their boots.
Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott and Frank Worrell transformed the West Indies into a batting powerhouse. They gave way to Rohan Kanhai, Roy Fredericks, Alvin Kallicharan, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Vivian Richards, Richie Richardson and Brian Lara.
Spin too was part of the Caribbean arsenal. Remember the spin twins, Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin. Off-spinner Lance Gibbs built on their reputation and became the highest wicket-taker of his time.
Then there was Sir Garfield Sobers. A left-hander batter who could bowl fast medium, orthodox left-arm spin and chinamans, he was a complete cricketer.
If Worrell made the West Indies into a fine Test team, Lloyd turned them into invincibles with his four-man pace battery backed by a formidable line of batters. The Caribbean side’s fortunes waned with Lloyd’s retirement. Richards and Richardson kept them afloat for a while, but by then it was clear that the fount of talent was running dry. Batsmen continued their audacious strokeplay, and fast bowlers remained a threat, but they were not as effective as their predecessors. As a result, Tests wins were elusive.
Then came a new generation of talent that played in the true West Indian style. The Calypso way. Chris Gayle was a torchbearer of the power-hitting tradition. Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell also could muscle the ball a long way. Not just that, these three could bowl at a tidy pace and blend it with clever slower ones. Sunil Narine’s mystery spin was another arrow that lolled in the West Indian quiver.
The Caribbean flavour
Two T20 World Cups followed. If Marlon Samuels starred in the 2012 victory, Carlos Brathwaite stole the thunder in the 2016 final. After grabbing three England wickets, Brathwaite came to the crease with the West Indies needing 19 off the last over and smacked the first four balls from Ben Stokes for towering sixes. That brought back images of Collis King’s blitzkrieg in the 1979 World Cup (60 overs).
The new breed went on to light up the T20 franchise leagues worldwide. For all the talent, the West Indies could have achieved much more in white-ball cricket than the two T20 World Cup wins. Despite all the powerhouses in their ranks, they could never deliver results consistently.
The 2021 World Cup in the UAE is a clear example. The early exuberance gave way to disillusionment as the Caribbean side withered. Pollard and Bravo have retired, Russell is fading away, Narine wasn’t selected, and Shimron Hetmyer missed his flight to Australia.
Not an ideal preparation to take on the world. So the early exit merely seemed a culmination of their woes. Yet, it was disappointing to see the West Indians sent packing by two Associate nations. Done in by a bunch of amateurs and part-timers. That’s embarrassing.
Much of the troubles seem self-inflicted. Poor batting and batters’ lack of game awareness resulted in sub-par scores. That was exacerbated by inept bowling changes by captain Pooran. Alzarri Joseph’s pace and Jason Holder’s experience were not used well enough. These are errors that can sink a side short on experience.
T20 cricket is unforgiving. There’s hardly room for errors.
Shyam A. Krishna
Shyam A. Krishna is Senior Associate Editor at Gulf News. He writes on health and sport.