West Indies have been beaten 0-5 by South Africa in the 5 match ODI series at home. They were also beaten 0-2 in 2 T-20 internationals earlier. So where is the team going wrong? After the IPL 2010, West Indies cricket has faced much tougher times.
It was expected that West Indies would come in the Top 4 of the World T-20 following good performances in the IPL by the captain Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard.
However they disappointed in the World T-20, following defeats to Australia and Sri Lanka in the Super 8s round. The pressure on Gayle in particular was enormous and with a demoralized team that he had, West Indies were of ‘limited edition’ when they were ready to play South Africa in the T-20 internationals.
Matters became worse after defeats in both the matches. However West Indies didn’t seem to be interested in winning and getting things back on track as they lost the first match of the series itself by a huge margin. A bad start meant that South Africa had won half the battle. Although the hosts did put up a fight courtesy Darren Sammy’s 24-ball 58, West Indies lost the second match also by 17 runs. The usually cheerful Chris Gayle also looked helpless with the bat and as captain on the field.
He hasn’t been able to devise a winning formula for the team alongside former England bowling coach Ottis Gibson. Gayle tried to play at his aggressive best, but only got starts to then get out by playing some silly and immature shots.
As captain, Gayle was at his tactical best as South Africa was bowled out for 224 in the third ODI. However, South Africa won the battle of the mind as West Indies batted terribly to have been bowled out for 167. A 0-3 deficit drew harsh criticism from Gayle, coach Gibson and experts such as Tony Cozier who believed that the team gave up easily.
The worst statement being of the honest Gayle, ‘Losing has become a habit’. Obviously then, how will the team win when the captain doesn’t have faith in the playing XI and can’t motivate his team? As a result, going into the fourth game with West Indies having nothing to lose, West Indies batsmen batted like free birds to score a good 303 in 50 overs, batting first. However, it was a last-ball defeat for the hosts as an in-form Hashim Amla made life much more difficult for them with another hundred.
During the match, the division between the West Indies players was evident when Sulieman Benn, the reliable left-arm spinner in an embarrassing moment was sent off the field by Chris Gayle for not obeying his instructions. This also made the West Indies cricket board (WICB) chairman Julian Hunte say that there will be more embarrassment for West Indies cricket to face at least for the next three years.
South Africa seemed to enjoying their victories and the increasing criticism that the hosts were finishing in their own country and by their own media. The pressure only grew stronger for the West Indies to win at least one game as consolation for a poor series. And it looked like it was going to happen when West Indies were in a winning position with 2 overs to go in the South African innings in the 5th ODI, when they were chasing 253 runs to win in 50 overs. But again, the West Indies in excitement lost the plot as Roelof van der Merwe and L Tsotsobe hit the winning runs with 2 balls to spare.
Though in hindsight, West Indies lost many close games which they should have won, this didn’t make Gayle happy. Losing all matches doesn’t make any captain happy with his team. And rightly so, instead of appreciating his team’s fighting efforts, he just said that ‘We don’t know how to finish them off’. So it is evident that Gayle knows the problem but then why can’t the team find a solution to solve it.
Graeme Smith, his counterpart and South Africa’s skipper would agree his team gave it their 100% to win the series after a dismal World T-20. But he would beg to differ with the fact that it was West Indies who lost it rather than South Africa who won it.
West Indies are minnows not just due to the fact that the team doesn’t trust itself to win, but also because of relying on individual performances.
One day, it is Bravo who does well and the others follow him by playing a supporting role. Another day, it will be Gayle who will come up with a cracker and the others keep watching and just do what is told to them. I think the solution for West Indies’ revival would be making all the players believe in giving their best and not rely on the stars to perform on a given day.
And for that, the players’ skills need to be taken care off. Perhaps, the opening of a high-performance centre in Trinidad has come at the right time for West Indies cricket to get back on track.
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