Whether you are the president of Cricket West Indies or a diehard fan still expecting Jason Holder’s team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in England, keep dreaming.
Languishing seventh on three points from five matches going into tomorrow’s Day/Night match against New Zealand at Old Trafford in Manchester, West Indies will need to perform a Houdini in their remaining matches, while banking on other results to help their cause in the ten-team Tournament.
Defending champions Australia with ten points from six matches, New Zealand (nine from five), England (eight from six) and India (seven from four) remain the favourites to advance to the semi-finals even though Sri Lanka created some intrigue today with a 20-run win over England at Headingley in Leeds to move into fifth position on six points from six matches.
Bangladesh are sixth on five points from six matches. The other teams are South Africa (three points from six matches), Pakistan (three from five) and Afghanistan (nought from five).
After tomorrow’s match, West Indies oppose India (June 27), Sri Lanka (July 1) and Afghanistan (July 4).
As it stands, West Indies can end with a maximum of 11 points but it is wishful thinking that they can advance to the knockout stage.
Yet Holder remains positive.
“I think we still have a possible chance to qualify for the semi-finals, but we’ve just got to take it game by game. This encounter with New Zealand is very important. We all know what’s at stake and we just have to come and bring our A game. It’s as simple as that,” Holder said.
“I think it’s a situation where you’ve had to be tough. We’ve had a few frank discussions within the dressing room to find ways in which we can improve on. I think all teams would get themselves in that situation at some point. But, yeah, we’ve had some pretty good discussions over the last couple of days. And tomorrow is just a day to deliver.”
Following a commanding seven-wicket win against Pakistan in their first match, West Indies lost by 15 runs to Australia, had a no-result against South Africa, were crushed by eight wickets by England and by seven wickets against Bangladesh.
The manner in which they have been beaten will continue to be a big talking point.
The general consensus is that West Indies are not putting a lot of thought into their game.
Even after scoring 321 for eight against Bangladesh, they lost with 51 balls remaining. The outcome was well put in perspective by Clive Lloyd, the outstanding former West Indies captain, who was at the helm when West Indies won the first two World Cups in England in 1975 and 1979.
“I was disappointed with the West Indies performance against Bangladesh. It would appear that they only have one way to play with no variation to their game plan,” said Lloyd, who is working as a radio analyst for the Tournament.
“They are trying to blast people out and I don’t think they understand the English conditions. You cannot always do that here because the pitches during this competition have been batsman friendly despite the rain. It might be green but it doesn’t always fly around.
“Bangladesh were ready for that sort of onslaught and to chase down 322 with eight overs to spare is a great effort, but it is poor cricket by the West Indies.
“They have themselves to blame if they miss the semi-finals. They should have seen off Bangladesh as well. But the Bangladesh side did their homework and deserved their victory,” Lloyd said.
For the second straight match, West Indies left out off-spinner Ashley Nurse while placing the emphasis on pace bowling – Sheldon Cottrell, Holder, Andre Russell, Shannon Gabriel and Oshane Thomas – and asking Chris Gayle to trundle a couple overs of spin.
The figures showed: Cottrell 10-0-65-0, Holder 9-0-62-0, Russell 6-0-42-1, Gabriel 8.3-0-78-0, Thomas 6-0-52-1, Gayle 2-0-22-0.
Holder indicated that Nurse is likely to return to the team for tomorrow’s match.
“Traditionally here it spins a bit. It’s something that we’ve got back in our minds as well,” he said.
It is also expected that Russell will be ruled out due to knee problems, while Kemar Roach could replace Gabriel, who has been the West Indies most expensive bowler, conceding 8.19 runs an over while picking up just two wickets at an average of 63.50, which is also his team’s worst.
Are we to believe that the seamers are not learning from their mistakes or should fingers be also pointed at the coaching staff?
Some observers have suggested that one of the shortcomings of the West Indies has its genesis in major changes to the coaching staff for the World Cup after an encouraging series against England in the Caribbean earlier in the year.
Opinions will vary but there is a significant difference between a bilateral series and a World Cup, as well as making adjustments to the conditions. Basic mistakes are being repeated and not using the brain in a smart way has hurt the West Indies with both bat and ball.
“It’s just a situation where we’ve just got to play smarter cricket. We’ve just got to seize the crucial moments in the game. I don’t think we’ve done that well enough here in this tournament so far,” Holder remarked.
Holder has often said he does not like to dwell on the past but in going forward, it is vital to pay attention to all aspects of what would have transpired, especially when it comes to crunch time.
There has been some talk about their final warm-up match before the World Cup against New Zealand in Bristol on May 28 when West Indies amassed 421 all out in 49.2 overs and went on to win by 91 runs.
“It just shows what we can produce. It’s a situation where we’ve just got to pull on those resources, remember the things that we did in that game. And it just shows that when we’re at our best what we can produce. I just think the guys just need to be clear, need to be calm and just execute their plans,” Holder said.
Clear, calm and execute. Those are wonderful words, skipper.
Yet, it will take much more than words to get West Indies out of their desperate situation. A lot of action is required.
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 (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org