Another moment of truth for West Indies Cricket
History This Week
By Winston McGowan
April 12, 2007
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The first instalment of this article focused on the poor performance of the West Indies bowlers in the current International Cricket Council World Cup, especially in the Super Eight matches. This second instalment will deal especially with the batting which has been more culpable and disappointing than the bowling, for it is widely regarded as the strongest aspect of West Indies cricket.
A team with as mediocre a bowling attack as the West Indies have usually can only win limited-over matches through very productive batting. The regional team almost throughout the competition has failed to achieve this, even in the three matches in the preliminary round which it won easily.
The batting with Denesh Ramdin at Number Eight seems to have some depth. However, as one cynic once remarked when an apparently strong West Indies batting side failed repeatedly in England, "the batting is strong on paper, but unfortunately the match is being played on grass."
In most matches the West Indies innings has failed to take shape. No batsman has given its batting the inspiration and direction it badly needs. In seven innings West Indian batsmen have scored only one century and five fifties. Only Chanderpaul has achieved as many as two scores over 50, 102 not out against Ireland and 76 against Sri Lanka. Brian Lara, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Ramdin have each scored only one half-century and Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo none.
Apart from Samuels' 63 against Pakistan and Chanderpaul's century, it was clear that none of these six productive innings would have an effect on the outcome of the match. Sarwan's impressive innings of 92 off only 75 balls against South Africa was always going to be irrelevant to the result of the game. The same was the case with Lara's 77 off 83 balls against Australia and Chanderpaul's 76 against Sri Lanka. In short, the West Indies batsmen occasionally made a good score when it didn't really matter.
The batting was so deficient that in the Super Eight matches it has repeatedly committed the unpardonable sin in limited-over cricket of failing to bat through the allotted overs. The innings lasted 44.3 overs against Sri Lanka, 45.3 overs against Australia and 44.4 overs against New Zealand.
In the Super Eight matches in which the regional team has been involved, its batting has failed even to come close to challenging the opposition's total. Thus in reply to totals of 303 for 5, 322 for 6 and 356 for 4 made respectively by Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa, the West Indies succeeded in scoring only 190, 219 and 289.
This innings of 289 against South Africa was the only occasion in the competition that the West Indies reached 250, normally considered the minimum acceptable score in 50-over games.
During the competition, the West Indies batting has demonstrated most of the weaknesses which have characterized it during the past ten years. Notable among them were the poor starts and the inconsistency of the middle order.
Except in the match against weak Zimbabwe, when Gayle and Chanderpaul had an opening partnership of 73, the team experienced poor starts from which it almost invariably never recovered.
The first wicket fell with the score at 7 against Pakistan, 24 against Ireland, 11 against Australia, 20 against Sri Lanka, 14 against New Zealand and 5 against South Africa. The situation was particularly disastrous in the match against Australia when the West Indies lost its first three wickets, including both openers, for only 20 runs.
The deficiencies of the batting were largely responsible for the massive defeats which the West Indies suffered in three of their Super Eight Games - by 115 runs to Sri Lanka, by 103 runs to Australia and by seven wickets to New Zealand. The first two of these defeats were the heaviest suffered by the West Indies in the nine World Cup competitions dating back to 1975.
The most disappointing feature of the West Indies batting was the performance of Chris Gayle who, along with Sarwan, has been the most successful West Indian batsman in limited-over cricket during the past two years, scoring numerous hundreds and fifties with an average of well over forty runs an innings. In the current tournament, however, Gayle in seven innings has scored only 148 runs with a highest score of 44 and a paltry average of 21.14.
His bowling has also been poor, as he has captured only 3 wickets in 45.2 overs, conceding 223 runs, with an average of 73.66 and an economy rate of 4.87. These performances were not in keeping with his recent ICC ranking as the leading all-rounder in the world in limited-over cricket.
The inadequacy of the West Indies batting in the current competition is clearly reflected in the team's overall averages. Only three regional batsmen have an aggregate of over 150 runs in the competition - Sarwan (281), Chanderpaul (231), and Lara (218) - and none has reached 300 runs. Only two of them have a batting average of over 40 runs an innings in the tournament - Lara (43.60) and Sarwan (40.14).
As in the case of the bowling, World Cup 2007 is a moment of truth where West Indies batting is concerned. The team's batting is not as strong as it seems on paper. Its alleged strength is far more apparent than real.
Like the bowling, the batting urgently requires effective remedial action.