West Indies ended 2017 on a dwindling note. Image Courtesy: Getty Images/AFP
West Indies ended 2017 on a dwindling note. Image Courtesy: Getty Images/AFP

The legacy of West Indian cricket in 1970-80s was daunting to say the least. For more information, watch the documentary – Fire in Babylon. Three decades down the line, the current crop of West Indies cricketers are struggling to even qualify for ICC flagship tournaments.

The current West Indies line-up is a fine example of how a national side can jump off the radar owing to the pressure of past glories, and fade away amidst into oblivion.

Contrary to their rankings (No. 8) in Tests, West Indies haven’t lost the plot completely in the format. From being the World champions in 1975 and 1979, they have now been in a downward spiral, and that became the talking point of 2017. They are virtually out from qualifying directly for 2019 World Cup. They will gear up against the associate nations in 2018 World Cup Qualifiers. In T20Is, they continue to be a force to reckon with and their players continued to steal the limelight in franchise cricket leagues.

Let us walk through West Indies’ graph across formats in 2017

England toured West Indies in March 2017. This series held a lot of significance for West Indies. Languishing at the bottom half of the ODI rankings, they had to put up a good show to salvage some pride. Nothing of that sort happened nonetheless.

West Indies have been guilty of playing too many shots, not targetting certain set of bowlers, and failing to apply themselves in the middle overs. As a result, they were whitewashed 0-3.

Decoding the defeats

In the first ODI, in pursuit of 297, West Indies were 188 for 4 in 38 overs. However, they collapsed and folded for 251. In the penultimate encounter, they gave away the momentum from being 159 for 4 in 36 overs to 225 all-out in 47.5 overs. In the final ODI, they were never in it, courtesy Alex Hales and Joe Root’s tons.

The MisYou farewell

Pakistan toured West Indies for four T20Is, three ODIs and as many Tests. The newly-appointed limited-overs skipper, Sarfraz Ahmed, had a point to prove. Under Azhar Ali, Pakistan never looked like a side heading towards the right direction. Sarfraz had to showcase his worth as a leader. He got the likes of debutant Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali to perform, whereas West Indies continued to lose the plot in crucial moments. Pakistan won the T20Is 3-1.

After gaining a 1-0 lead in the three-ODI series, West Indies failed to address their long withstanding issue, that is, consistency. Pakistan showed more fight and a clinical performance to win the series 2-1.

The tour reached its final stage. It was the farewell series of Pakistan’s veteran stars captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. Many cricket pundits expected a better team as opponents in the duo’s last series. (Remember, Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell series was a dull affair? It was also against West Indies).

West Indies, however, were in for a fight. In the last face-off between, West Indies lost a nail-biting day-night Test in UAE. They won the dead-rubber third Test and lost 1-2.

West Indies wanted to carry on from where they had left in UAE. Nonetheless, they faltered in the second innings of the first Test. Pakistan went 1-0 up. The script changed dramatically in the second Test at Barbados.

West Indies’ improved batting performance enabled them a score beyond 300. In reply, Pakistan took a vital 81-run lead, but were just a step ahead. West Indies showed enough character on a tough pitch, and stretched their innings, courtesy Shai Hope, to 268 all-out. A target of 187 was not going to be a cakewalk on the final day. West Indian bowlers responded beautifully by bowling right lengths. They did put down a few chances, but ran through Pakistan’s famed batting line-up (comprising of Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Misbah and Younis) to bundle them out for 81.

Shannon Gabriel (five-for), Alzarri Joseph and Holder claimed wickets. The off-cutters, slower ones and crossed-seam deliveries worked wonders. In the post-match presentation, Holder stated, “Getting the consistency in the way we play is going to be the key.” Even though West Indies were beaten in the series decider by 101 runs, they gave Pakistan a run for their money.

West Indies fought, fought and fought hard only to lose the third Test in the penultimate over. The emergence of Roston Chase, Shai Hope, Gabriel, along with ever-consistent Kraigg Brathwaite were the highlights of the series. In addition, West Indies displayed aggression and the will to stage a comeback from nowhere.

DJ Bravo dance, Gayle and Pollard donning RCB & MI jersey respectively

The IPL, India’s cricketing carnival, is incomplete without the presence of West Indies’ stalwart cricketers. The big guns Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine add to the drama and entertainment both on and off the field. Many franchise owners may have even named their will in West Indians’ names.

Can you imagine IPL without the pairs MS Dhoni-Bravo, Rohit Sharma-Pollard and Virat Kohli – Gayle?

Let us take a look at the performances of some of the big guns from Caribbean island in IPL 2017:

P M Batting avg. Bowling avg. R W
Chris Gayle 9 22.22 200
Kieron Pollard 17 29.61 385
Sunil Narine 16 17.23 41.2 224 10
Samuel Badree 7 20.88 9

Note: Bravo missed the entire season due to a hamstring injury.

– While Narine wasn’t very effective with the ball, he shone with the bat with a staggering strike-rate of 172.30 (mostly as opener).

– Badree, on the other hand, commenced the season with a hat-trick for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), and ended with 9 scalps.

The Afghan rivalry

West Indies failed to qualify for 2017 Champions Trophy. As a result, they invited Afghanistan for a short series. The itinerary was as follows: three T20Is and ODIs. This was Afghanistan s maiden experience of the Calypso music, and visit to the Caribbean island for international cricket.

Afghanistan, coming on the back of 11 consecutive T20I victories, commenced the shortest format from where they had left in 2016 World T20I. They were the only side to beat eventual champions, West Indies, in the tournament.

However, West Indies didn’t let them any respite. Afghanistan was whitewashed in the T20Is. West Indies played as a unit, and strangled the opposition who went overboard with their shot-making. West Indies, once again, showed that they perform the best in a format wherein they have lifted the World Cup twice.

Nonetheless, the scenario changed in the three-ODI series. Afghanistan earned a 1-0 lead before West Indies gave it back in the second ODI. The third ODI was washed out, resulting in Afghanistan drawing their maiden ODI series in Caribbean island.

When India used their travel allowance

India toured West Indies within a week after finishing second in Champions Trophy. They played five ODIs and a one-off T20I from June to July. The tour commenced with the 50-over series.

While the tour opener was washed out, India toppled West Indies 3-1 to seal the series. Ajinkya Rahane wrecked havoc with the willow, and Virat Kohli joined him in the final ODI. Kohli also registered 18 (most) hundreds while chasing, in the last ODI. From West Indies’ perspective, their bowlers restricted the opposition on two-paced tracks. However, their batsmen lost the plot, once again, falling prey to reckless shots. Their woes against wrist spinners prevailed.

West Indies continued to dominate India in the shortest format. The one-off T20I resulted in an easy 9-wicket victory courtesy Evin Lewis’ second ton (both against India). In 2016, Lewis had smacked Indian bowlers to pulp in USA, and continued the same in Jamaica. His 125 not out (6 fours and 12 sixes) was also the highest T20I score in a chase.

Note: Do you know Kerserk Williams is West Indies’ (overall second) most successful T20I bowler in the calendar year with 18 scalps?

Barring Headingley, a forgettable England visit

Having failed to qualify for Champions Trophy, West Indies boarded the flight to England for a full tour: three Tests, five ODIs and one T20I.

The tour started with England hosting their maiden day-night Test at Edgbaston. West Indies batsmen fell like nine pins against pink ball. Media and former players tore them apart and termed the current West Indies Test side as one of the worst. Skipper Holder and coach Stuart Law asked their players ‘to look into the mirror’ following an embarrassing defeat of innings and 209 runs.

The script changed unexpectedly in the second Test at Headingley. It was easily one of the best Test matches of 2017. Electing to bat, England were troubled against the pace and movement of Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach. Ben Stokes scored a spirited hundred, but England folded for 258.

West Indies, riding on Kraigg and Shai’s individual tons, took a 169-run lead. Till then, West Indies were led well by Holder. England, however, did not give up and declared at 490 for 8, setting a target of 322. What followed was an epic chase, again led by Shai (Hope) and Brathwaite (95).This became West Indies’ fourth highest chase and fourth against England. Also, it was their first Test win in England after a long halt of 17 years.

Man of the Match: Shai Hope (twin tons)

West Indies’ dream turnaround is enough indication that this side can turn it upside down but lack consistency. They have been sparking a miracle every time one disputes their existence or mourn the many annihilations. However, they again proved their critics right, and eventually conceded the series in the finale at Lord’s.

West Indies moved on to the five ODIs after winning the one-off T20I. Their poor run continued. What was disheartening to see was similar mistakes hovering over their process. As a result, they lost 0-4. Lewis was their highest run-scorer including a breathtaking 176 in the penultimate ODI.

West Indies dealt with another blow. Courtesy their 0-4 scoreline, they fell short to directly qualify for the 2019 World Cup (in England). From winning the first two editions of the mega event, West Indies cricket have hit a new low. They will now have to gear up for the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe in 2018. Their ODI cricket is no less than that of an associate nation’s. Holder-led side will have to gel well and find their lost mojo in the qualifiers.

ICC World Cup Qualifiers consist of the bottom-lying (four) Test-playing nations along with the minnow nations. Two teams from Cricket League Division Two join in.

Next stop – Zimbabwe

After the disappointments in England, West Indies travelled for a short African safari. Their next stop was Zimbabwe. Both sides were scheduled to play two Tests. West Indies had a chance to consolidate, but the assignment wasn’t a cakewalk.

To fan the fire, Zimbabwe lost a close-knit one-off Test versus Sri Lanka early in the year. Playing at home, they were expected to give a good fight to the opposition.

West Indies got a lead courtesy a 117-run victory in the series opener. In the pursuit of 434, Zimbabwe faltered amidst Brendon Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza’s fifties for 316. However, the second Test proved that there isn’t a lot to separate between both sides at present.

Zimbabwe posted 326 in the first innings, and West Indies summed up their innings for 448. Zimbabwe squashed a 122-run lead and drew the contest at 301 for 7. West Indies batsmen got good practice on the slower tracks and against a below-par quality attack. Shai, Kieron Powell, Chase and Shane Dorwich got runs along with Holder registering his second hundred. Devendra Bishoo was adjudged Man of the Series for taking 13 scalps, while Kemar Roach claimed 8 wickets.

West Indies pocketed the two-match series 1-0.

Winless in Kiwi land*

West Indies ended 2017 in New Zealand. The ongoing tour comprised of three Tests and ODIs, along with the series opener of the three T20Is played before New Year’s eve. West Indies remain winless in the current tour, and ended 2017 on a miserable note.