“This is too much.”
“I’m going to watch PSL.”
Trying to log in to catch Cricket West Indies’ radio coverage of the Super50 match between the Guyana Jaguars and Windward Islands Volcanoes on Monday, my eyes caught sight of those two comments in a chat on the Youtube page.
I took it they were in reference to the match in progress. At the time, the Volcanoes batting first were already four wickets down for less than 50 runs. The chat appeared to be between people from Asia and evidently, what was on offer in the Super50 was not appealing. The Pakistan Super League T20 action was a better watch.
I could understand the frustration of the pair.
Collapso cricket has very limited appeal. Very quickly, the rapid fall of wickets ceases to be entertaining and cannot be simply explained away by the “glorious uncertainties” of the game.
Yesterday morning was just the latest example of the wicket-purging that has been taking place in Cricket West Indies’ showpiece event.
The most spectacular example though came on Sunday evening in the do-or-die match between Barbados Pride and Jamaica Scorpions.
Seemingly cruising into the semi-finals at 118 for two chasing 219, the Pride batsmen then fell down like pins in a bowling alley, part-time spinner Andre McCarthy’s drifters being too much for six of the Bajans, Ashley Nurse, Akeem Jordan and Joshua Bishop giving him a hat-trick.
As the batsmen went to and from the pitch at Coolidge, the ESPN cameras kept panning to the Pride enclosure. There were blank looks everywhere, not least on the face of captain Jason Holder.
He must have dreaded having to go before the microphone post-match to try and explain to interviewer Samuel Badree the debacle taking place before his eyes. But Holder was hardly singular in this experience, since for all of last week teams struggled to bat for 50 overs.
Ahead of today’s first semi-final, sides have been bowled out ten times well within the their allotted 50, and seven times for totals below 200.
Any claims of tricky pitches would ring hollow. There have been no green tops or dust bowls at Coolidge or the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground. And five different batsmen have already scored centuries, with two others getting into the nineties. Bizarrely, some of those collapses, like the Pride one on Sunday came with the batsmen well in charge.
On Saturday for instance, the Guyana Jaguars seemed to be setting the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force batsmen their first really big target of the tournament with Chandrapaul Hemraj blazing away with the score 142 for two in the 27th over. But in sight of his hundred at 87, Hemraj got out to Imran Khan and the air just gushed out of the Jaguars’ balloon. With the set batsman gone, a few miserly overs from Khan and left-armer Khary Pierre were enough to stop the productivity and break the resolve of the batting team.
There was no plan B, no calculated counter-attack; no ability to find singles or squeeze the twos, just collapse. Too often last week this pattern unfolded, teams imploding from a position of strength, losing wickets in big bunches against the slow bowlers. The dot ball was king.
While the drama might have entertained the supporters of the winning teams, those massive slides must have made CWI lead selector Roger Harper squirm.
West Indies will have to face ample amounts of Sri Lankan spin at those same Antigua venues in two white ball series starting next week. So to see the region’s best batsmen struggle to manipulate the slow bowling would not have been a comfort to Harper. It would have frustrated him also that One-day regulars like Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer still lack the hunger to regularly bat for most of an innings.
That’s the thing about this tournament; there seems a lack of collective desire among the players to seize their chances, to press home advantages, to move their games into another zone.
CWI officials like to speak of the “strong brand” that West Indies cricket still is. But the eye-test says it is a collapsing brand.
ESPN’s glitzy packaging and slick camera work can’t cover that up.