All the hype of a resurgence before the 31st of May 2019 gave the men from the Caribbean great hope, but at the end of the New Zealand match on Saturday June 22nd, it just wasn’t meant to be. After a more disciplined performance by the bowlers especially with the introduction of Kemar Roach for his 1st game this tournament, the West Indian innings was one of both brilliance and heart-ache. Chris Gayle reminded everybody why at age 39 he is still called the “Universe Boss” with a typical 87 in 84 balls. Carlos Brathwaite too reminded everyone of his name (“Remember the name” called by Ian Bishop in T20 final 2016) with his maiden ODI century.
Both men played superb knocks that nearly sealed the deal for the Windies and had them in the hunt. Firstly Gayle at the top of the order and then Brathwaite lower down. The day/night match at Old Trafford, Manchester had all spectators at the edge of their seat, including me watching at a beach house on a clear Saturday afternoon. It was a match where the “Universe Boss” once again showed his power-hitting skills. At one stage, Gayle had faced 23 balls for 5 runs with a meagre strike rate of 22. But as he stayed longer at the crease, he started running the quick singles. This was clearly evident in the recent ODI series in the Caribbean a few months ago against England.
New Zealand is one of those teams that plays the game in the right spirit. That is why cricket is called the “Gentleman’s game”.
The Kiwis tried the short stuff to him but to no effect whatsoever. Gayle had smashed 6 sixes at the end of his knock. He also showed that you are never too old to learn, as the quick running of singles has been added to his portfolio. It is the last time England will ever see him wearing the maroon colors and after this World Cup he surely will be missed dearly in ODI cricket. 20 years of Gayle has been such a pleasure to watch.
Carlos Brathwaite as mentioned was at his very best against New Zealand. This was his 2nd meaningful innings in international cricket. His 101 off 82 balls brought back great memories of his last over annihilation against Ben Stokes in the 2016 T20 World Final in Kolkota. Earlier in the tournament against the Australians he would have been disappointed with his shot selection. A full toss from Mitchell Starc was hit straight to mid-on and the West Indies could not cross the line of victory.
His assault on the New Zealanders brought about 5 sixes as Matt Henry felt the pain going for 25 runs in an over. Jimmy Neesham had the responsibility of the penultimate over. With the Windies needing 6 runs to win with 7 balls to go in the match, Brathwaite went with his gut feeling. Oshane Thomas the number 11 at the other end hung on well in a last wicket stand of 41 runs. With Neesham charging in for the final ball of his over, Brathwaite went for broke. With the ball looking like it was sailing for 6, Trent Boult showed why he is such an athlete. He took an excellent catch on the long-on boundary under pressure. I honestly started to celebrate when I saw the ball whistling in the air but this victory for the West Indies was just not meant to be.
An iconic image at the end of the match showed Brathwaite being consoled by Ross Taylor. New Zealand is one of those teams that plays the game in the right spirit. That is why cricket is called the “Gentleman’s game”. West Indies with their forth loss have been knocked out of the 2019 Men’s Cricket World Cup. Such a shame that this happened after the new board and players seem to be getting along well off the field. On the field however is when it counts the most. West Indian heart-break all over the Caribbean. Who knows what will happen to the coaching staff after this tournament is over. One thing for sure however, is that the new Cricket West Indies Board have a lot of thinking to do in terms of selecting the right bowlers for the necessary conditions. Add to that, fit players must be selected in a final 11 as well. With pride to play for in their remaining 3 matches and the pressure off, we will see how it unfolds.