Who knows, but those among us who are fans of sarcasm may have an appropriate joke given the way the West Indies have been playing ODI cricket of late. And would you even blame them for coming up with something like this: “The way they play 50-over cricket nowadays, they should be called “Losedies, not Windies!”
Did you laugh? Did you not? Who cares? For it seems, the West Indies certainly don’t? For had that been the case, they won’t have found themselves in a situation where it’s almost certain that they have to contest in the 2023 ODI World Cup qualifiers?
But again, why joke about something that’s already becoming one? However, this isn’t a joke anymore; it’s a glaring reality that stares the West Indies right in the eye.
They are a team that, lest it is forgotten, have not one but two ODI World Cup titles against their name. Reminding die-hard fans about the 1975 and the 1979 triumphs is now as perfunctory a task as asking Shashi Tharoor to recite nursery rhymes.
What’s the need? What purpose does that serve?
And yet, the West Indies are the very side that failed to get onto the automatic qualification flight of the 2015 ODI World Cup. Not that things have changed this time around.
At the back of embarrassing series losses to India, to whom they’ve lost twice in 2022 already and most recently to New Zealand, the West Indies haven’t made the cut for the next ODI World Cup. They’ll have to necessarily go through the grind of treading on the dusty road called the ICC World Cup qualifiers.
What’s unfortunate in this regard is that the once-mighty West Indies are nowhere to be found. No dominating the charts. No haranguing of the best batsmen in the business. No subduing of skill by pace and bounce either. No tethering of opponents like Sir Viv or Lara did. No thunderbolt and lightning and all that.
What’s on ample display is a Nicholas Pooran-led side that plays like Pooran himself; a brand of cricket that’s bold and brash, scintillating but often hugely disappointing.
In some sense, Pooran, who played a captain’s knock in the third and final ODI against New Zealand with his 91 off 55, perhaps perfectly represents the team. Or should we say, the team plays much like its captain.
It’s the kind of cricket that can, on any day, make headlines for doing something mind-numbing, such as that characteristic assault waged on Kiwi bowlers on August 21 by the famous left-hander.
Yet, it’s also the team that can self-obliterate. And it can do that often by conceding one run too many, not just through bad deliveries but by the mounting pressure that stems from bowling too many extras.
If the Windies somehow escaped the embarrassing pressure of not getting rampaged by the likes of Afghanistan and Zimbabwe for the past several years in a white-ball series, it appears that this seriously low point isn’t that far where the likes of Finland, Bulgaria, Spain and the enterprising lot that doesn’t take its cricket for granted will lock horns and possibly turn the bull with it.
That’s when the West Indies cricket doesn’t have the scarcity, rather a constant supply of talents of the class and repute of Shai Hope, Shamarh Brooks, Kyle Mayers, Alzarri Joseph, Yannic Cariah, Obed McCoy, Dominic Drakes, Akeal Hosein, to quote a few.
That’s when there are quite a few who are yet to debut and when they will, it appears, at least by the looks of it, the Windies won’t be in a state of dismay they still find themselves amid.
Think Kristan Kallicharan. Think Alick Athanaze. Remember Kimani Melius. Forget not about Tagenarine Chanderpaul.
That’s when the likes of Evin Lewis, two T20I centuries to his name, Shimron Hetmyer, Guyana’s famous export to Windies cricket are still very much around and yet to peak to full potential.
That’s when Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell haven’t called time on their careers. That’s when the West Indies have none other than Sir Desmond Haynes as the dominant face spearheading the selection of talents for national team.
But if at this very moment, you were to run into a cigar maker at Kingston or a Brian Lara fan in Chaguanas or even a tech entrepreneur in Bridgetown, chances are, each of them will have multiple theories as to why Windies cricket is where it is; somewhere amid doom and glimmer of hope as it has been for several years. And yet none of them will ever be able to comfortably arrive at the most plausible reason behind the catastrophically disappointing performances that the team continue to exhibit.
Take for instance the fact that the Windies lost each of the three ODI’s it played in Pakistan, when it never looked they were completely outperformed in any. In the first game, the Windies all but edged Pakistan with the white ball, after Shai Hope scored a cracking ton, his second of the year, reaching 4,000 ODI runs with it.
In the final game, when all batters failed, Akeal Hosein, a front line leg spinner showed the way through a 37-ball-60.
In none of the three ODI’s that the West Indies won against The Netherlands did it seem that the hosts were challenged enough. In fact, it did seem that the Dutch could have overwhelmed the unsuspecting visitors from the Caribbean.
Earlier this year, how the West Indies managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in India should ideally compel a CIA investigation for such mind bogglingly surprising was their lack of fight that it would perturb even the most cool headed spymasters.
Moreover, that the team lost the only T20I it did seem capable of winning at one stage at the Eden Gardens contest with Pooran and Powell darting Indian bowlers at one stage should inspire mystery novel writers.
The West Indies still boast a lot of power hitters. Russell’s probably a thing of the past, as is Brathwaite; but Odean Smith and Romario Shepherd aren’t. In fact, the latest all round duo are just getting started.
At the same time, the Windies fast bowling cauldron seems a decent bunch and inspires a feeling that with a bit more guidance and careful execution of plans can see Joseph, Seales, Drakes, and McCoy become a world-beating quartet.
On top of this, they’ve got someone like an Anderson Phillip and the somersaulting off spinner Kevin Sinclair.
What more could they ask for? There’s Hayden Walsh Jr. who’s perhaps not the novice he once was, and is becoming a serious cricketer who worries about his sport just as much as he does about his streaks.
Then there’s the booing, the plaudits, the trials and tribulations of being a West Indian cricketer, where hope is a four letter word that often precedes disappointment.
The fan, however, is getting impatient as anyone would. His query is the politest and perhaps the most understandable ever: what’s going wrong with the West Indies despite the talent?
To many, the answer lies at the grassroot level. To many others, it points to chicken-headed decision making at the administrative level.
There’s clear evidence of a lack of cohesive and structured course of action that can’t come from players but must from coach Simmons, selector Haynes, Jimmy Adams and that sort of think tank.
The doubt, however, remains a constant: what will happen to the West Indies and how soon might the disastrous ways of thinking subside?
But all said and done, no question is perhaps as pertinent as asking whether there is a cause to West Indies cricket anymore? Who knows what may happen in an era besieged by Hindu-Muslim verbatim, organic fruit yoghurt, Keeto diet, President Biden’s teleprompter and the mindless shambolic war between Ukraine and Russia!
Truth is, if Sir Ian Fleming was sitting amid a live Shai Hope inning or a Hetty-powered run-chase, he’d forget the failures of the West Indies team and mutter to himself in awe and thrill, “Well, never say never when it comes to the Windies!