Cricket World Cup (CWC) is here!
By Brian Davis – Former West Indies Test Cricketer
The 50-over tournament started this weekend. Many articles were being written on the West Indies (WI) team and individual players; some even suggesting that the WI has a chance of winning the prestigious trophy!
This is a team that struggled last year to qualify, a side that finds opposition like Bangladesh and Afghanistan (which is still being called a minnow!) difficult to overcome! Cricket might be a game of glorious uncertainties, but those surprises only occur in the odd inning or game, never in an entire series. One’s obvious weaknesses would be exposed within a short space of time.
Not up to standard
I am a West Indian cricket fan of great devotion. However, I’m certainly not overly optimistic when it comes to the present-day team, for numerous reasons. The team is devoid of skill in all departments, especially in bowling and fielding. Their build-up and preparation were not up to standard.
There was too much turmoil, instability and unrest leading up to the CWC. Players were being pulled in all directions creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion. This was because of the election of a new president in Ricky Skerritt, which came as a surprise to many.
A rip tide was created which pulled and tugged everyone in different directions generating panic in some, nevertheless, joy and gladness in the majority of fans in, not only the region, but far and wide in the cricket fans of the West Indian diaspora.
Coaches, selectors and managers were changed in a matter of weeks sometimes even days! It’s not a proper way for a team to be prepared for a contest as significant as the CWC.
WI has glaring weaknesses and the psychological balance is in favour of their opponents. Let’s look at the WI team closely.
Our bowling is very weak for limited over games. They are more suited to Test cricket when one’s strategy is based on attack, trying to tempt batsmen into driving at your well-pitched up deliveries or hooking at your bouncers to be caught on the boundary. The fast bowler is well supported by slips, gullies and a short leg, up under the bat.
The batsman thinks twice of whether it’s worth the risk. The bowler has to get the batsman out in Tests because to win the match one side has to bowl out the other twice, basically. The pitches are also variable, sometimes, but not always, giving the bowlers a chance. Not so in the 50-over variety!
Each bowler is limited to 10 overs each. His job is to contain the batsman from scoring quickly. His fields are defensive. He expects the batsman to take a chance by trying to attack his bowling thereby getting himself out.
Fielding is just average
The more scoreless balls he delivers, the better his bowling. For example, if five bowlers bowl 10 overs each and they all collect two wickets for 60 runs, the batting side ends at 300 for 10 wickets.
However, if five bowlers after their spell have 30 runs scored off them without claiming a single wicket, the batting team’s total would be 150 for 0 wicket. Which is the better score?
Although obvious, so many don’t see the relationship. Bowling dot balls is the answer to good bowling in limited over contests but not necessarily in the real test of a Test match which measures the true strength of a team.
This is just a mathematical example for there would be a lot more involved in reducing a side’s scoring rate by allowing the more powerful batsman to face less deliveries etc. but the point is made.
I’m trying to show that among our bowlers of Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell, Jason Holder, Oshane Thomas, Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell and the two slow bowlers Fabien Allen and Ashley Nurse, there is not one that commands the high standard of line and length bowling that is required at this pinnacle of the game.
Observing the performances closely one notices at least three bad balls an over which invites the top-class batsman to be cautious as he knows he has 50 per cent of deliveries from which to score. First-class batsmen weigh out the bowlers and pick those for attack. WI bowling is not up to CWC standard.
The fielding, an area that helps the bowlers somewhat, is below average. Again, for this format and especially this contest, the all-round ground fielding and catching is below par!
Nurse, Cottrell, Gabriel, Gayle, Thomas are not known for their speed or their athleticism. Holder, Brathwaite, Lewis are average fielders while Roach, Bravo, Hetmyer, Allen are above average but tend to be inconsistent. Russell is out of the top-drawer and there are the two keepers Nicholas Pooran and Shai Hope that if both are chosen in the same game, Hope is the better outside fieldsman though just average.
Pooran is the better keeper and strong consideration must be given to him playing as keeper and batting at 6. It will ease Hope of opening the batting plus keeping, which is a strain, especially if WI field first.