Windies losing sight of the prize - it is now ‘Do or Die!’
By Colin E. Croft
Former West Indies fast bowler
April 1, 2007
AFTER the opening salvoes of the Super 8 round of the CWC 2007, the smoke is now clearing.
More vision is available and the picture now shows that the West Indies cricket team is struggling to make the semi-finals of the CWC 2007.
If it were just for the wishes and hopes of the seven million people of the Caribbean and its Diaspora, perhaps they would continue on and even win the CWC 2007, but words and wishes are wind!
The truth be told, the West Indies seemed to have somehow lost the plot. They looked particularly down, listless and hapless against New Zealand.
All West Indians now hope that they win this all-important Super 8 game; v Sri Lanka. We can only hope that, somehow, they pick themselves up for this important game. They have no real choice.
Against New Zealand, they looked like a team that was not prepared, in every aspect, for the game.
The team selection was futile, the batting was basically superfluous, the bowling was sporadic and the fielding as bad as I have seen it at this level and, so far, in this competition.
I do not know what Coach Bennett King and his team are aiming to produce, but the entire team is simply producing wonderful “hot-and-cold” mediocrity.
There has been a call to arms for supporters to come out in their numbers to support the team against Sri Lanka and for the rest of the games, with the less than impressive turnouts so far to the games.
With the astronomical prices to attend the games; the cheapest ticket in Guyana is US$25, almost a fortnight’s wage for the average worker; even the most ardent supporter needs something to justify his/her sometimes 100% sacrifice, just for the sake of West Indies cricket.
Except for the game against Pakistan, the first of the competition; that seems so far in the distant past now; the West Indies have become poorer and poorer by the game. No crowd could help the players. They must help themselves.
In the game against New Zealand, the West Indies elected to go with, supposedly, a long batting line-up, including opening batsman Lendl Simmons, in for the fast bowler Jerome Taylor.
One of the batting all-rounders, Dwayne Smith, actually batted at No. 9. This was the most stupid mistake, and that was quite evident when the team only amassed 177 in much less than 50 overs, the team’s lowest score to date, in the competition.
To make things worse, the West Indies only faced 44.4 overs, another cardinal sin in one-day cricket. At the very least, a team batting first should face the full allotment of 50 overs.
The fault must lie with the West Indies batting line-up and its productions. Throughout the entire competition so far, the batsmen have flattered to deceive; seeming to struggle.
Against Pakistan in the first game of the competition, the West Indies amassed only 241 from their allotted 50 overs.
The batting contributions are as follows: Chris Gayle 2; Shivnarine Chanderpaul 19; Ramnaresh Sarwan 49; Marlon Samuels 63; Brian Lara 37; Dwayne Bravo 16; Dwayne Smith 32; as the West Indies made 241-9 from their 50 overs. Had it not been for the best bowling and fielding that I have seen from the West Indies team in a very long time, the Pakistanis probably would have won easily.
Against Zimbabwe, Chris Gayle made 40, Shiv Chanderpaul 21, Ranmnaresh Sarwan 12, Marlon Samuels 28, Brian Lara 44 not out and Dwayne Bravo made 22 not out, as the West Indies made the required 204-4, in 47.5 overs, to win by 6 wickets, with 13 balls to spare. This batting display was not particularly convincing either.
Set to make 190 from 48 overs in the Duckworth/Lewis calculations, the West Indies made it from 38.1 overs, having lost only two wickets. Chris Gayle again failed 18, while his opening partner Shivnarine Chanderpaul made 102, the team’s first, and to date, only hundred of the tournament. At least, they seemed to have been improving.
Then came the two games in the Super 8 against Australia and New Zealand, the games before the fatal and almost decisive game against Sri Lanka today.
In the West Indies first Super 8 game, the opposition, Australia, made an imposing 322. In reply, the West Indies managed only 219, with Chris Gayle 2, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 5, Ramnaresh Sarwan 29, Marlon Samuels 4, Brian Lara 77, Dwayne Bravo 9 and Dwayne Smith 9. Had it not been for the rejuvenated Denesh Ramdin, who made 52, the West Indies would have been beaten worse than the 103-run margin.
Worse was to come.
By eliminating fast bowler Jerome Taylor and including opening batsman Lendl Simmons, the West Indies supposedly strengthened the batting line-up. This still did not work, as they made that paltry 177 all out, in only 44.4 overs.
Gayle made 44, Chanderpaul made 4, Sarwan 19, Samuels 9, Lara 37, Bravo 18, Ramdin 15, Simmons 14 not out and Smith 8. New Zealand won at a canter, posting the required runs and ending at 179, with only three wickets down, and in only 39.2 overs.
I do not know about you, but most of these scores have been ‘BINGO’ numbers”, with not many ‘O’ numbers featuring, except for Chanderpaul’s century.
The West Indies’ batting has been extremely poor to date. No-one, perhaps except Lara and Chanderpaul, notably the most experienced of the players, seemed either prepared or ready to accept the responsibilities.
To be honest, both Dwayne Bravo and Dwayne Smith should be dropped. Unfortunately, the replacements, wherever they are, might be just as poor!
If the West Indies are to qualify for the semi-finals, they must beat all of the remaining teams that they play in the Super 8 - Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh and England. Even without the pressures of having lost the first two games to Australia and New Zealand, this would have been a difficult task, even if all of the batsmen had been batting well. The West Indian bowlers have simply not had enough cushions to work with.
Australia have looked tremendously tough and ready to defend their championship. I doubt that there is anyone anywhere, not even in the Caribbean, who would not name them for the final in Barbados.
The form batsman has been Matthew Hayden, but Michael Clarke and skipper Ricky Ponting have also threatened to blast the opponents.
Their bowling has come to the fore too, with especially Brad Hogg being a revelation on the slippery, low and slow pitches that are evolving as the competition progresses.
New Zealand are doing their normal efficiency, despite the loss of key players. The captain, Steven Fleming, just seems able to absorb adversity, to carry on regardless. Shane Bond is their best bowler, and, to date, the best of the competition, with his great pace, accuracy, composure, wicket production and frugality.
New Zealand are getting better as the competition moves along and are a good bet for at least the semi-finals.
Sri Lanka may have had a blip on their radars when they just missed out, by the thickness of a coat of paint, on beating South Africa a few days ago, as the great slinger Lasith Malinga’s fifth wicket-taking delivery in a row just missed Robbie Petersen’s off stump. Malinga aside, there are so many good, even great players on the Sri Lankan team. Sanath Jayasuriya has already had a century, while Upal Tharanga, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Dilharo Fernando have all done excellently.
It would be a very brave person who would bet against the fiery Sri Lankans not making the semi-finals. If they play to potential, they can go all the way!
South Africa may be rated No.1 in the world, but they did not look like that when they were losing wicket after wicket to Sri Lanka, as they seemed to again wilt under pressure. They did win, but it was not convincing at all.
The Proteas might be bull-headed, aggressive and abrasive, but captain Graeme Smith and the even reliable Jacques Kallis, as batsmen, along with bowlers Makhaya Ntini, Charl Langeveldt and Andrew Hall will have to hold more than their own to allow South Africa to get to the semi-finals and finals. They can do it, but an entirely 100% effort would be needed by the team!
I have said that both Ireland and Bangladesh should create upsets, and that possibility is left to be seen, but England did manage to wobble to their first win; against the Irish. Michael Vaughan, the English captain, should really be dropped, so out-of-form he seems. He does seem, though, to have regained his off-spinning ability, so there probably would be uses for him on the slower pitches, as there would be for the improved Monty Panesar.
Andrew Flintoff, despite all of his shenanigans, is still England’s talisman and Paul Collingwood, on present form, the team’s best all-around cricketer. England does have an outside chance to get to the semi-finals, but it would be tough if they do not improve.
This week, starting with this game today featuring the West Indies and Sri Lanka, would tell its own story.
I hope, even expect, that we could have a 600-run game to appease the capacity crowd at the new Guyana National Stadium. I hope that they will not be disappointed. Whatever happens, the fireworks are just about to start. Hang on!