Spare A Thought For The Windies

Are you enjoying the T20 World Cup? I know it’s not for everyone but I’ve been keeping an eye on the scores. England have obviously started well, really well, with two decisive wins against the West Indies and Bangladesh. I’m beginning to think that we could go far.

What’s encouraging has been the performance of our bowlers. I really thought that our seam bowlers would be our Achilles heel but they’ve done brilliantly thus far. Opening up with Moeen Ali was a good idea too, as I’m sure he’s done this for Worcs in the past. We don’t have a gun opening bowler so why try to utilise one, especially in conditions that suit pace off the ball?

However, for every winner there’s inevitably a loser. And nice as it was to see England roll over the Windies for 55, I have to admit that I felt for them. West Indies cricket has been in crisis for many years now, and T20 has been the thing that’s restored some pride and (to some extent) kept the game alive in the islands. I imagine the last thing they needed was a complete trouncing.

Sadly for the Windies, they played very poorly in their second meaningful game against South Africa, too. In fact, the margin of defeat was even greater: 8 wickets rather than 6. Most of the post-game talk was understandably about Quinton de Kock’s controversial withdrawal but this obscured what was another chastening defeat.

Were these bad results particularly unexpected? Some pundits seemed to talk up the Windies chances before the tournament. There was mention of last hurrah’s for their golden T20 generation. However, just looking at the West Indies’ XI, I’m not particularly shocked that they’ve struggled so far. A lot of their bankers seem well past their best.

Personally I think this is a shame. The latter stages of the competition would be poorer for their absence. There’s just something intangibly alluring about Windies cricketers per se. Ian Bishop, who is rapidly becoming many people’s favourite commentator on the circuit, expresses this sentiment pretty well here:

“What has always summed up West Indies players? Athleticism, power, panache, flair, power-hitting, mystery spin. Think Sonny Ramhadin, Alf Valentine, Garfield Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards. These guys possessed those traits. We now have a format that suits those skills to a greater degree than ever. It is natural to West Indies cricketers.”

The problem, of course, is what happens to West Indies cricket if they can no longer shine in the shortest international form of the game? Everyone knows about their Test travails. And their ODI form hasn’t been stellar over that last decade either. So what will be the consequences for cricket in the islands if they begin to struggle in T20, too? Who will inspire their next generation of players?

The cynic in me hopes that the West Indies will continue to produce good T20 cricketers while there’s money in it. Let’s be honest, money is one of the biggest drivers for all professional sportsmen. It’s a career, after all. Bishop, who sadly, just missed out on the riches of T20 is very aware of the rewards available without resenting it:

“The market determines your earning power. I am happy to see the guys secure their financial future, because it’s happened too often that players who helped put their country on the map need assistance once they’ve retired.”

The worry, however, is that the next generation of Windies cricketers turn into what critics of the T20 circuit might call mercenaries – players happy to take the coin without holding much affection for the teams they represent. Will playing for the West Indies actually mean something or will they just prioritise franchise cricket?

So basically today’s ‘lesson’ – and apologies if it seems like I’m preaching here – is this: enjoy England’s victories over the West Indies and even Bangladesh. It’s great to see our lads doing well and enhancing their reputations. But spare a thought for the so called minnows, too.

‘Minnows’? Wow. I grew up in an era when the West Indies were the most feared team in international cricket whatever the format. It’s so sad that, thirty years later, cricket writers can describe teams from the Caribbean in such terms without raising eyebrows.

James Morgan


  • I was amazed when I read those articles tipping WI for the semi-finals. I saw quite a few passages of play in all three formats during their home summer, and the batting (including in T20) looked a total mess.

    Two things in particular stood out. One was a total absence of a plan B. The second was how brain-dead their batting was. The failure to have such a basic plan B as turning the strike over in general was one aspect of this, but the height (or depth!) of it was the innings where Evin Lewis spent almost twenty overs batting with numbers 8, 9 and 10 and faced barely one third of the balls. I remember losing count of the number of times he took a single off the first ball or two of the over and then left his partner to face Starc, Hazlewood or Zampa.

    To make things worse, the selection has been diabolical (creaking old player who doesn’t contribute because everyone’s too afraid to hurt his gigantic ego by telling him he’s past it? Tick. Recalling an ancient seamer who’s also past it and who hasn’t played for years? Tick. Player who looks totally out of his depth in this format although he’s worth a punt in the test team? Tick Player who’s almost never achieved anything in an international career going back to 2008? Tick).

    I suspect that the team’s going to need quite a clear-out–not only of the ageing dead wood, but probably a new captain and a new coach. The issue isn’t only that they’ve been terrible here, it’s that they’ve ignored several months’ worth of warning signs and that they’re not making the best use even of the relatively meagre resources they have (why were both Gayle and Simmons in a starting XI against England which only had four fit specialist bowlers? Why, if he plays out a high percentage of dot balls for an opener, is Simmons not batting down the order at this particular tournament on these pitches?)

    Btw, I think you’ve put your finger on a potentially huge problem, James–which is that the idea of West Indies means a lot less than the notion of countries usually does.I mean, would we really be surprised if Stokes, Buttler et al prioritised the IPL (or the Everest Premier League for that matter?!) if the alternative was to play for Northern Europe?

  • The Windies poor form still seems to have the legacy of mistrust between Board and players hanging over it.
    What it needs is a strong enough personality to unite the team and get them concentrating on the job in hand. Maybe Holding or Bishop could help out, they always seem to have plenty to say on the matter.
    As far as England go great to see Tymo Mills back in the fray. He adds some genuine X factor, but beforecwe leap to any conclusions about the team in general let’s see how we get on against proper opponents on Saturday.

  • WI appear to have stuck with a generation of players past their sell-by because there’s a lack of alternatives coming through (and they aren’t alone in that BTW).

    On the tournament itself, it’s been good to see pitches that aren’t total roads but otherwise it’s been pretty mediocre. Pakistan look the only team so far who might be able to threaten England but they need at least one of their middle order to find some form. Australia’s batting doesn’t look up to it, India fold in ICC tournaments away from home, NZ’s spinners aren’t quite good enough…. and there’s a chasm in quality to the rest.

    • The WI system might not be overflowing with talent but there were plenty of alternatives they could have tried (or could have tried a year ago with a view to replacing the old guard).

      Is Gayle really a better overall package now than Shai Hope, who has one of the best ODI averages ever, strikes at 136 in T20Is and could have kept wicket to allow Pooran to concentrate on rediscovering his batting form? Was Fletcher (the fourth opener in a squad with only four specialist seamers) really a better option than Jason Holder? Given Simmons’s dot-ball percentage and Chase’s white-ball frailties, would it really not have been worth trying Jermaine Blackwood, who’s a pretty attacking batter, instead of one of them? Are all of Seales, Cotterell and Joseph worse options than Rampaul, who a Derbyshire fan blog was reporting looked decidedly creaky two months ago?

    • Well, as a board, absolutely not in India’s case: I actually find these situations hugely funny because the financial bandwagon has been upset so much–like Leicester winning the Premier League.

      But the players–somewhat, just in terms of the relentless scheduling. India are around a third of the way through a period of almost three years without any noticeable breaks, given that they have four postponed ODI series to play next year. And, unlike players from any other country, they can’t really opt out of the IPL if they want to keep their board happy.

      I’m surprised they know which day of the week it is, let alone whether to hit a six or run a single.


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