The West Indies hardly dominated opponents consistently prior to the ICC’s World Cup One Day International (ODI) tournament currently being played in England and Wales. Yet their Test series win and their ODI draw in England’s tour of the Caribbean early this year caused cautious expectation in the region that their World Cup outing had some potential. That expectation increased after the team’s domination of Pakistan and their close games against the mighty Australians and dogged English.
In the end, the ordinary showing of the West Indies team was the result of strategic failures by management and players. And, certainly after their matches against Pakistan, Australia and England, citizen commentators across the Caribbean feel that the regional side underperformed in the premier tournament.
In the swiftly evolving game that is international cricket, in all its formats, the West Indies appeared to have seized upon a one-dimensional short-pitched bowling strategy and an artless, hard-hitting batting strategy. Neither was sustainable. While the short ball worked against Pakistan, the Australians countered, to which the West Indies had no answer. The hard-hitting approach produced world class entertainment in brief spells but proved to be the demise of the team’s World Cup chances, symbolised by the decision of Carlos Brathwaite to tragically heave at a ball with only six runs required from seven balls against New Zealand in Manchester. His innings will be recorded as among the best in the tournament, but the team lost.
Captain Jason Holder and coach Floyd Reifer have been targeted for blame by fans. Post-tournament analyses will no doubt flesh out the details but new Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Ricky Skerritt has witnessed the team’s first major collapse since assuming office and it is to him that eyes will turn for remedial guidance.
Beyond the work to be done at the management level, however, is the inescapable truth of the players’ inability to nuance their game to suit game-day conditions and match dynamics. Consistent short-pitched bowling when variety was required and huge heaves when singles and twos would have kept the scoreboard ticking over evidenced the absence of variety in the team’s strategy. The decision to include an injured Andre Russell in the squad, thereby eliminating other fit players, is worthy of criticism, especially as Russell had to be replaced anyway. Nicholas Pooran showed maturity in his game, Evin Lewis and Jason Holder produced staccato performances and Shai Hope, hitherto a stand-out young performer, was similarly inconsistent.
Ultimately the team exited the tournament with six losses, two wins—against Pakistan and Afghanistan—and one rain-affected no-result against South Africa.
Meanwhile, India, the West Indies’ next opponent in September, have continued to brilliantly execute all the elements currently lacking in the regional side. Caribbean people will be looking to management and players to redraw their strategy and refocus ahead of that contest.