By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Collapses, like the one we saw in the first quarter-final of the 2011 World Cup, have become a regular and sorry feature of the West Indies team. It’s precipitous fall from the heights the islanders scaled under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.
Cricket fans may recall the final of the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy where they were reduced to 147 for eight, chasing 218. What followed was a most remarkable fightback through Ian Bradshaw and Courtney Browne who teamed up to take West Indies to the target without further damage. The cricket world lauded West Indies’ achievement, but little did they know that collapses were to become a regular occurrence in West Indies cricket.
The year 2005 was the beginning of the unhealthy trend of collapses. It was in that year the contracts dispute hit West Indies cricket. A team without the likes of Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle and Brian Lara toured Sri Lanka for a Test and an ODI tri series. As a result quite a lot of players made their debuts in this period. The loss of those senior pros had a destabilizing effect on the team. It upset the balance as well. The batting order was unsettled and most of the young players knew that they would be replaced by the seniors as soon as the dispute was resolved.
A similar dispute hit West Indies cricket again when Bangladesh toured the Caribbean in 2009. This dispute was much worse than the first one as the entire team sat out the series. A second string team took on Bangladesh and also participated in the ICC Champions Trophy. These disputes, in a way, derailed their team-building process.
West Indies always had talented batsmen in their ranks; the likes of Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul and Dwyane Bravo have been around a while. In the earlier World Cup, they had the great Brian Lara and Marlon Samuels as well. And in the current tournament they have Darren Bravo and Kieron Pollard. One of the reasons for the batting collapses is the fact that they play too many shots and, in the process, throw their wickets away. They have tended to be adventurous when discretion was needed to stay in the middle.
When wickets fall, batsmen are required to be sensible and get their eye in. However, many of the West Indian batsman attempt extravagant big shots from the word go. Sarwan and Chanderpaul have often been left with a lot to do because of such excesses.
West Indies haven’t had a set batting order at any point of time in the last few years. Only Gayle holds on to his opening slot. They have chopped and changed quite a lot of players….the likes of Narsingh Deonarine, Wavell Hinds, Travis Dowlin and Lendl Simmons, to name a few. All of them have come and gone without making much of an impact.
As many as 24 players have made their ODI debuts for the West Indies from the last World Cup till their last group game against India in the current edition.
On many occasions they have lost matches from a position where it looked like they would sail through. The games against England and India were an example of such a scenario. They also tend to lose their way after some great starts provided by Gayle. Who can forget the way they collapsed in the Champions Trophy final 2006 after Gayle and Chanderpaul hit the ball all around the park in the initial overs.
I witnessed one such collapse in the same tournament when Sri Lanka bundled them for 80 at Mumbai. At 51 for three, Hinds and Lara looked set for a recovery after the fall of early wickets, but then they folded for 80 – courtesy, a fantastic spell by Farveez Maharoof. It was a sorry procession after Lara was dismissed.
The West Indies sides of yesteryear were world beaters. Some of the greatest batsmen and bowlers in the history of cricket represented the West Indies between the 60’s to 80’s. One sometimes wonder what the likes of Lloyd, Richards, Greenidge, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft may be feeling to see the West Indies slip from their pomp to this abysmal depth of despair. Sad.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)
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