“The players have to realise that this is not Twenty20. The batsmen need to turn those scores of 30 and 40 into bigger scores and they must be aware that all these teams have world class bowlers at their disposal.”
Against England on Friday in Southampton, Jason Holder’s men in maroon were once again guilty of showing temperament ill-suited to the 50-over game as they crumbled against the hosts.
Consider this: Andre Russell walked into bat when West Indies were in trouble at 156/5. Holder and Hetmyer were both dismissed by Joe Root’s part-time off-spin and with 18 overs still to go, there was the real danger of the team being bowled out within the 50 overs. But Russell walking into bat at that point should, on paper, have looked to get his eye in with a well-set Nicholas Pooran at the other end.
Sure, counter-attacking is an option but after he was almost dismissed playing onto the stumps off the first ball, and after he was dropped trying to play the big heave off Adil Rashid on the eighth ball he faced, Russell should have steadied himself and readjusted for the long(ish) haul.
What happened instead was the all-rounder hit two sixes and a four (all slogs) before deciding to play the pull shot to one of the longest parts of the ground... and holding out. A 16-ball 21 that kept his ODI strike-rate above 130 but did nothing to help the West Indies cause to stay afloat in the match.
That was West Indies in a nutshell.
Not for the first time
Trying to ask West Indies to play with less flair and more calculation is akin to telling George RR Martin to go easy on the violence in his novels. Its a defining trait. But not for the first time in the tournament, Holder and Co paid the price for not adapting their game to the conditions or the situation.
In the match against Australia, when bowling first, West Indies had the defending champions on the ropes for the first 20 overs. The scoreboard read 83/5 and an upset was definitely on the cards. In the next 30 overs, West Indies lost their grip on the match by conceding 205 more runs. In the run-chase as well, on more than one occasion, West Indies had victory in their sights only if they had opted to play sensible, risk-free cricket.
Russell, again, was guilty of throwing his wicket away at the wrong time: going after the opponent’s star bowler is good for entertainment and ego, not very helpful when trying to win a match. (If lack of 50-over fitness is an issue for Russell, maybe his selection should be questioned too.)
Back to Southampton, against a well-oiled machine like England, Chris Gayle’s stay in the middle was a precursor to Russell’s. The Universe Boss did show much more restraint early on, but after having a catch dropped and earned a reprieve, failed to make the most of it by taking on the longer boundary. Shimron Hetmyer, impressive as his 39 was, lasted for 48 balls because he mishit, or did not connect, with most of his attempted slogs.
The only batsman who showed signs of maturity was the guy who had played just one One-Day International before the World Cup. Nicholas Pooran, the most inexperienced player in the XI, curbed his natural instincts when the going got tough to hit his first ODI fifty.
Once the batting lineup was blown away for just 212 in less than 45 overs, there was not much hope for the West Indies bowlers to resurrect the situation. But even then, as Michael Holding said on air, a “listless” effort on field and “one-dimensional” strategy to try and bounce out the England batsmen, made for disappointing viewing.
With Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan struggling for fitness, England could have been tested with more runs on the board and a more disciplined effort with the ball but the Caribbean side made life a lot more easier than it should have been for the hosts.
“We were 41-1, I think, at the end of the first 10 overs, which was a decent position considering the conditions,” Holder said after the match.
“I thought we lost the game in the middle. Every time we got something going, we lost a wicket. We lost wickets at crucial stages. I just think looking back in hindsight you have to build a few more partnerships and go deeper,” the captain added.
Sure, the conditions were tougher to bat after England won the toss and opted to bowl. Sure, the pitch eased out in the second innings and made England’s run-chase a walk in the park.
But the West Indies, who in this writer’s opinion had a good shot at making the top four, have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot so far. Fifty-over cricket requires more of the Test match skills than what T20 demands and the men from Caribbean have been found wanting every time they have been put under pressure.
There is still hope, but West Indies better quickly find the will to fight it out for a win than just hoping to blast their way to it: with the ball and the bat.