LOSING TO A WEAK NEW ZEALAND TEAM IN 3RD ODI LEADS TO HEATED ARGUMENTS
Following the 88-run defeat against New Zealand in the third One-Day International at Warner Park in St. Kitts on Wednesday, it was amazing to hear the many reasons put forward by West Indian supporters.
After all, the way West Indies rolled over the Black Caps in the two-match Twenty20 series in Florida and then won the first two ODIs at Sabina Park in Jamaica convincingly, there were high expectations of a clean sweep in the five-match series.
The general feeling was that New Zealand are a weak team, mainly due to injuries to key players. But that never meant that they would just go through the motions in every match.
And there was a lot of hype surrounding Wednesday’s match, which the West Indies team devoted to Runako Morton, the former West Indies batsman who was born in the twin-island of Nevis and who died in a car accident in March in Trinidad where he was residing. West Indians and indeed those at the ground simply wanted a win to make the day extra special.
While waiting patiently in a growing queue in a commercial bank yesterday, one customer reckoned that West Indies “sell-out de match”. He talked about bookies having their way and quickly got an audience who joined in the debate. It was hilarious.
Sometimes you never really know how passionate West Indian fans are about the game until something seemingly strange happens. So many views were put forward for the defeat. One guy questioned the three run outs in the West Indies innings including two of the main batsmen, Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo, and why skipper Darren Sammy did not bowl his full allotment of ten overs after figures of one for 22 off eight overs.
Another chap said once Chris Gayle was dismissed early, West Indies would always be under pressure to get the required target of 250. There was a counter that when West Indies played competitively in the ODI series against Australia in the Caribbean earlier this year, Gayle was not in the team so such an argument was baseless.
Others wondered why West Indies opted to field after winning the toss. Back and forth the arguments went. All because West Indies had no right to be beaten, they said. And a couple even questioned whether West Indies could win the series after all, based on their display on Wednesday.
Lowest total to be defended at Warner Park
Those who like to focus on statistics are telling us as well that New Zealand’s 249 for nine was by a distance the lowest total to have been successfully defended at Warner Park. West Indies themselves once failed to defend 248 against Bangladesh at the ground.
In relation to the early dismissal of Gayle for 11, the experienced New Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram had this to say. “We knew all along that he was going to be the real danger man, and we talked about just trying to get him out.
“We always talked about just exposing the rest of their top order, let alone their middle order, to bring pressure, which they hadn’t been under for four games on the tour. On top of that we fielded as well as I’ve ever seen. Yes we dropped a couple of catches, but those three run-outs, you’ll go a long way to see better,” Oram said.
Sammy, however, did give New Zealand some credit. “They played really well … their fielding was brilliant. We felt that 250 was a par score and we backed ourselves to get that target, considering the way we batted in the T20s in Florida and the first two matches in Jamaica. Today we just kept losing wickets at crucial stages and that’s where we lost.”
He went further: “There is no panic in the camp. This is not a panic situation. We have been playing well since the start of this series, but we didn’t get it right today. We won’t let this defeat dampen our spirits. We wanted to win for Runako and the people today… so we will come back on Saturday and look to get it right and do it for them.”
Yes, Sammy. There is no question that West Indies must atone for the defeat but there are still those who seriously question the batting display which resulted in a total of 161 all out in 34.3 overs. Was it real, many have been asking?
It is always good to get a wake-up call and coming as it did in the middle of the series, there is every reason for the side to lift their play and win the last two matches before going into the two-Test series.
It will always be argued that West Indies teams of the 1980s and the early 1990s would never have allowed New Zealand to get a sniff after the commanding results in the first two matches. One tends to feel that there was a far better understanding and appreciation of what success meant to the region then, compared with the current era.
And mind you, there is also quiet talk in some quarters that although Gayle has made telling contributions with the bat since his return to the side after an 18-month absence due to differences with the Board and management, a few players appear to be under pressure by his presence both off and on the field.
But this is not the time for despair. As captain, Sammy continues to try his best. He must be strong and not feel intimidated even in the face of some experts who have monitored him closely, and who strongly believe that he is overworked with so much cricket being played nowadays.
That in itself is a matter for the West Indies Board and the selectors. If anything, the current series provides Sammy with a chance to gain success and give West Indian fans something to shout about. We eagerly await the outcome.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association Division 1 championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org).