Is it possible for all West Indian fans to be upset that the team did not qualify for the semi-finals of the Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019? Is it that heart break continues to loom largely game after game? Was there any confidence moving forward after the West Indies annihilated Pakistan in their first match of this tournament? The answer is probably no unfortunately. A team that has not won a single ODI series since August 2014 against Bangladesh 3-0 in the Caribbean under Dwayne’s Bravo leadership seems like a lifetime ago.
West Indies let it slipped various times in this World Cup. Let’s go back to the match at Nottingham against Australia earlier in June. The Aussies were at one stage 79 for 5 and somehow the West Indians let the foot slip off the gas, as the score was converted into 288 all out. Nathan Coulter-Nile scored his highest ODI score up to this point with a magnificent 92. When the West Indies were chasing that average score on that pitch, T20 sensation Andre Russell perished to the outstanding Mitchell Starc. From that point onwards, West Indies lost the momentum and capitulated in the end.
The latest match for the Windies against Sri Lanka in a dead rubber for both teams at Durham saw defeat clinched from the jaws of victory. A maiden ODI century for Avishka Fernando propelled Sri Lanka to 338/6. Once again, not the smartest bowling was displayed by the West Indies.
The Bangladesh game at Taunton, Somerset, saw West Indies posting 321/8 and under most circumstances a challenging score on a slow pitch. However, the West Indian bowlers seemed to have lost the plot by bowling too short consistently. Shakib Al Hasan’s breath-taking unbeaten hundred saw them home in convincing fashion with 51 balls to spare. West Indies relied on the ‘chin music’ approach but it backfired heavily and embarrassingly. Pace, yes was evident, but clearly not much skill was shown with the tactics on the day.
The New Zealand game at Manchester brought about the most heart break though. Chris Gayle’s wonderful 87 at the top of the order went all guns blazing. He found a solid partner in Shimron Hetmyer but as he fell to Trent Boult, the calypso collapse cricket was in full flow once again. Jason Holder batting at number 5 was out for a duck first ball driving loosely outside the off-stump. When Chris Gayle failed to bat till the end, in came Carlos Braithwaite. Power hitting mixed with sensible batting and rotating strike kept the West Indians in with a faint hope. With six runs needed to win off seven balls, Braithwaite going for broke trying to hit a six to win the match saw the ball brilliantly caught on the boundary by Trent Boult. Jimmy Neesham the lucky bowler in delight, but the opposite for Braithwaite as he fell to his knees in total disarray. In the World T20 final he was the hero but three years later, the emotions were contrasting. Victory just was not meant to be.
The latest match for the Windies against Sri Lanka in a dead rubber for both teams at Durham saw defeat clinched from the jaws of victory. A maiden ODI century for Avishka Fernando propelled Sri Lanka to 338/6. Once again, not the smartest bowling was displayed by the West Indies. Shannon Gabriel back in the team bowled 5 wicket-less overs for 46 runs. In the run chase, West Indies at one stage reeling at 145 for 5 with the run rate climbing at over 8 runs an over saw another young West Indian batsman for the future step up to the plate. Nicholas Pooran at age 23 scored his maiden ODI hundred and what an effort it was. He and Fabien Allen (51 runs from 32 balls) were going all guns blazing and victory looked all in sight. Then tragedy struck when a bad call saw Allen run-out and he slammed his bat in frustration.
Nicholas Pooran later on 118 had no choice but to go after the bowling as wickets were falling at the other end. In came Angelo Matthews with his first ball since December 2017. He somehow managed to find the faint edge of Pooran’s bat and that dismissal safely saw Sri Lanka clinch victory by 23 runs. West Indies have one game remaining against Afghanistan on Thursday July 4th 2019 at Headingly, Leeds. With Afghanistan win-less in the tournament thus far, they can lick their lips to finish with a moral victory against the West Indies. They have beaten the Windies twice last year in the ICC World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe. Afghanistan in my opinion have a very good chance and it’s up to West Indies to go out on a high to prevent another defeat. With the next World Cup in 2023, West Indies have a lot of work to do if they are ever to be considered a favorite.