West Indies Cricket: Below Rock Bottom

Another West Indian perishes during the World Cup Qualifiers against Scotland. Source: AP Photo.

If you did not realize that the West Indies are not in the World Cup later this year in India, please pinch yourself. Yes folks, it’s the harsh reality of life. From being World Cup 50 over champions in 1975 and 1979 to not even being part of the 2023 World Cup is basically a slap in the face. All West Indian fans kept asking themselves if things could get any lower for the regional side and unfortunately it did. Let’s sit back and analyze what went wrong and perhaps correct these mistakes.

     The West Indies as we know have slowly declined from the late 1990’s to what I would describe as “below rock bottom”. One would even have to admit that they are probably at the center of the Earth with recent sub-standard performances in the last 12 months or so. It all started with the team failing to qualify for the 2022 T20 World Cup’s super 12 in Australia last October. Losing to the Irish & Scotland just highlighted the West Indies poor showing. After their exit, Cricket West Indies did a post mortem and concluded that the conditions in Hobart were similar to that of England with the ball swinging around as one of the main reasons. Is this really a just excuse for a wretched outing though? One has to think definitely not. Too often in Caribbean Cricket we hear all sorts of inferior excuses for a team that simply has lost the zeal to even be competitive, especially against high-class opponents. 

      This tour of India to the Caribbean is similar to inviting your neighbor over to Christmas dinner. Buffet style all you can eat.

     Soon after their exit from the 2022 T20 World Cup, they had a chance to redeem themselves against Australia in a two-test match series. After lasting 5 days in the first Test at the bounciest pitch in the World at Perth, the West Indians succumbed to a heart-wrenching 419 run defeat at the Adelaide Oval. The first time 94 years they have ever lost by such a huge margin. The late great Tony Cozier would have been rolling in his grave no doubt. God rest his soul. Moving on, we entered 2023 with the team touring Zimbabwe and expectedly winning the Test series 1-0. No shocker there as Zimbabwe do not play much of the longest form of the game. Flying to South Africa for two Tests, reality returned with a 2-0 whitewash in favor of the home side. The West Indies in 2022 for the most part were on an undefeated streak in Test Cricket having beaten England and Bangladesh at home. Such is the inconsistency of this West Indies team. They however managed to draw the ODI series in South Africa 1-1 and surprisingly won the T20 series 2-1. Even South Africa were amazed. 

     Come April to June, the West Indies Cricketers earned the big bucks at the 16th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). On flat batting pitches, the likes of Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer and co. smashed the ball to all parts of India. An ODI 3-match series was played against the UAE in Sharjah as a warm up for the 50 over World Cup qualifiers. As one would expect the West Indies won 3-0. Off to Zimbabwe for the World Cup qualifiers and that is where more tragedy struck. Losing crucial matches to Zimbabwe, Netherlands and Scotland is where fans agonizingly gave up. Did the West Indies really expect to just show up and beat them convincingly? Surely in an alternate Universe in Doctor Strange’s Marvel World yes. 

     Fast-forward to India’s tour of West Indies and same old story. It’s like Groundhog’s day to be honest. West Indies escaped a 2-0 whitewash thanks to the rain Gods in Trinidad at the Oval. An optimistic may have pondered a West Indies successful run-chase on the fifth day, but against the quality spin of Ravichandran Ashwin and “rock star” Ravindra Jadeja was surely highly unlikely. This tour of India to the Caribbean is similar to inviting your neighbor over to Christmas dinner. Buffet style all you can eat. Meaning the pitches in the region were tailor made for spin. The pitch curators surely must know by now after all these years that West Indies batters do not play high-quality spin well. Why not prepare fast, bouncy pitches with some live grass on the surface? That way, there is an even contest between bat and ball. 

     Having good batting pitches in the Caribbean will steadily develop young players’ batting technique so that they can confidently face up to International bowlers in time. Another remedy is to teach our youngsters the art of rotating strike. This must start at the grass-root level as I firmly believe the best West Indies team is currently 13 years old. Practice makes perfect is the saying of old. Playing for the West Indies was once full of pride and passion. Unfortunately we don’t see that in modern times especially with players choosing to play in the glorified T20 leagues mushrooming globally. Once playing for pride is instilled in the younger generation, no doubt West Indies can be a force to reckon with. Of course with the right guidance at the youth coaching level. As this is my first article written in 3 years, I will be exposing young talented Cricketers in Trinidad and Tobago and hopefully this reaches audiences Worldwide. Stay tuned everyone and hope you enjoyed till next time. End. 

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