Year-ender 2018: West Indies review – Plenty of loose ends despite shades of promise
Shai Hope was a bright positive for West Indies in an otherwise average year.

Like any other year in the last decade or so, 2018 left us with more misses than hits from West Indies. With a win percentage of a little over 33 percent across all three formats, West Indies finished another year leaving their followers with plenty to ponder. As two-time World Champions, it was disheartening to see them huff and puff before securing a place in next year’s World Cup. And while they were somewhat impressive at home, West Indies’ struggle against spin overseas remained a glaring concern.

West Indies began with a thumping 226-run win over Sri Lanka in the first Test at home. But losing the plot from there, a drawn series against a weakened opposition ended up being nothing more than a missed opportunity. They showed encouraging sings by sweeping Bangladesh 2-0 but failed to show the same flair in the limited-overs leg, going down in both ODIs and T20s.

Their toughest assignment – the tour of India – was unforgettable to say the least. West Indies were romped, winning just one match out of 11. To make matters worse, Bangladesh, as hosts, returned the favour, mauling West Indies in Tests and ODIs, before the touring team was able to overcome umpiring howlers and win the T20 leg to end the year on a high.

West Indies ended the year on a high winning the T20I series in Bangladesh 2-1. (AFP Image)
West Indies ended the year on a high winning the T20I series in Bangladesh 2-1. (AFP Image)

West Indies have always been adventurous off the field, and this year was no different. One of their most talismanic cricketers, Dwayne Bravo called time on his international career, but he did not go out with a whimper. Bravo revealed details regarding how the impasse between him, his players and the WICB resulted in the infamous pull-out of the India tour in 2014. Four years since, with Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis deciding to opt out of the India tour, one can only assume how little the relations between the players and the board have improved.

In September, after less than two years in the job, Stuart Law announced that he would resign as West Indies’ head coach at the completion of the Bangladesh tour. However, under him, the Windies did show certain sparks. A win to sign off the year, in the format they are most comfortable in, should open bigger and better avenues. As far as the memory can recall, West Indies’ current crop of young players has never looked more promising. There is plenty to look forward to from the likes of Shimron Hetmyer and Oshane Thomas, provided they can utilise their abilities well and prevent injuries.

Tests: Played 9, Won 3, Lost 5, Draw 1

Ranking: 8

ODIs: Played 11, Won 3, Lost 7, Tie 1

Ranking: 9

T20Is: Played 9, Won 3, Lost 6, Tie 0

Ranking: 7

HIGH

After almost three months of touring India and Bangladesh, West Indies finished with a trophy, beating Bangladesh to seal the T20 series. They did so in Tests earlier this year at home, but coming off five straight series defeats, this one put smiles on faces. In the decider, Lewis set West Indies up for victory with a blistering 89 off 36 balls and Keemo Paul’s 5 for 15, were the best figures by a West Indies player in T20Is, took the wind out of Bangladesh’s sales. For a side that has been ran roughshod overseas, hanging on for glory in their favourite format was a shot in the arm for the Windies.

LOW

The tour of India. In both Tests, West Indies were hammered inside three days, and blanked 0-3 in the T20Is. This was the series where their struggle against quality spin came to the fore. Kuldeep Yadav, Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja feasted on the batsmen as they collapsed to an innings defeat in the first Test and lost the second by 10 wickets. T20s weren’t any better, and although West Indies did pick themselves up in the 50-over format by tying the second ODI and going one up by winning the third, they were unable to build on it and lost the remaining two games by comprehensive margins of 224 runs and nine wickets.

Top Performer

Shai Hope scored back-to-back ODI centuries against Bangladesh. (AFP Image)
Shai Hope scored back-to-back ODI centuries against Bangladesh. (AFP Image)

When Shai Hope played than blinder of an innings against England at Headingley last year, expectations from him skyrocketed. But in the 17 Test innings he played this year, Hope fared rather ordinarily averaging a little over 20. But once the two Tests against India finished, Hope turned over a new leaf to provide a stunning turnaround in limited-overs. In the few innings this year, Hope had remarkable numbers. His unbeaten 123 and 95 were the only two saving graces for West Indies for the series against India, followed by back-to-back centuries against Bangladesh in ODIs even though West Indies lost. He signed off with another fifty in the first T20I, providing the platform for West Indies’ triumph.

Fading Force

Gayle played in the World Cup qualifier but has since limited his appearances to only T20 Leagues across the world. With West Indies battling to find quality openers, Gayle, despite not having played much international cricket, remains a certain pick for the World Cup. But don’t expect him to go beyond that. Marlon Samuels‘ is another curious case. In the five ODIs against India, Samuels, backed by coach Law to negotiate spin and mentor youngsters, managed just 64 runs in five innings and was even worse in Bangladesh scoring 25, 26 and 19. With only two half-centuries in 2017, during the Qualifiers, and an average of less than 25 in the last two years, statistically, Samuels’ career is at a low ebb.

One to Watch

Member of West Indies’ successful Under-19 World Cup campaign in 2016, Hetmyer was one of the few positives for West Indies, besides Hope. His fearless six-hitting approach, coupled with a certain degree of caution, was exemplary. It was evident through his knock of 93 against Bangladesh, even as the rest of his teammates crumbled to Mehidy Hasan’s spin. Hetmyer hit nine sixes during that knock on a turning Mirpur surface, after the 64 he’d scored in Chittagong in the previous Test. Against India, Hetmyer hit a century and a 94 in consecutive matches and opened the door for a 4.3 crore deal with IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Shimron Hetmyer played some blinders against India and Bangladesh. (AFP Image)
Shimron Hetmyer played some blinders against India and Bangladesh. (AFP Image)

Lined up in 2019

January-February – Host England for three Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is

June-July – ICC World Cup 2019

July-August – Host India for two Tests and three ODIs

October – Tour Zimbabwe for 1 Test and five ODIs

November – Tour India to play Afghanistan in one Test, three ODIs and three T20Is

December – Hosted by India for three ODIs and three T20Is