Now that the West Indies’ dream of reaching the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup in England is over, the question of how they will play for pride in their remaining two matches is debatable.
Already with five defeats – the joint most suffered by a West Indies team in a World Cup Tournament (the other occasion was in 2007, but is put in perspective later in this column) – and only one win, along with one no result, Jason Holder’s side seem set for the worst ever record by West Indies in what is now the 12th Championship.
Their remaining matches are against Sri Lanka at the Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street on Monday and rock-bottom Afghanistan at Headingley, Leeds on Thursday.
Following South Africa’s nine-wicket win over Sri Lanka today, which took them to five points from eight matches, West Indies now languish one from the bottom of the table on three points with Afghanistan yet to gain a point.
Afghanistan’s penultimate match is against Pakistan tomorrow with the odds in favour of Pakistan who, with seven points from the same number of matches, are desperate for a win to remain in line for a semi-final berth before climaxing against Bangladesh next Friday.
Bangladesh are also on seven points from seven matches but in fifth position by way of a better net run rate than Pakistan. Bangladesh’s remaining match is against India on Tuesday.
Defending champions Australia, with 12 book their semi-final berth. They are followed by India on 11 points from six matches, New Zealand, also on 11 (seven matches) and jittery England on eight (seven matches).
Sri Lanka, on six points from seven matches, are the only other team with a mathematical chance of reaching the last Four.
The record of West Indies at the World Cup since its inception shows: 1975 – Champions (won all five matches; there were eight teams) in England; 1979 – Champions (won four, no result one; there were eight teams) in England; 1983 – runners-up (won six, lost 2; there were again eight teams) in England; 1987 – fifth of eight teams (won three, lost three) in India and Pakistan; 1992 – sixth of nine teams (won four, lost four) in Australia and New Zealand; 1996 – reached the semi-finals of 12 teams (won three, lost four) in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; 1999 – ninth of 12 teams (won three, lost two) in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands; 2003 – ninth of 14 teams (won three, lost two, no result one) in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya; 2007 – reached Super 8, sixth of 16 teams (won five, lost five) in West Indies; 2011 – reached the quarter-finals, eighth of 14 teams (won three, lost four) in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh; 2015 – reached the quarter-finals again, eighth of 14 teams (won three, lost four) in Australia and New Zealand; 2019 (to date) – ninth of ten teams (won one, lost five, no result one) in England and Wales.
Assessing the performances of West Indies in the current Tournament has become somewhat monotonous after they defeated Pakistan by seven wickets in their first match at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
Their other results have been: lost by 15 runs to Australia at Trent Bridge; no result against South Africa at Hampshire Bowl, Southampton; lost by eight wickets to England at Hampshire Bowl; lost by seven wickets to Bangladesh at County Ground, Taunton; lost by five runs to New Zealand at Old Trafford, Manchester; and lost by 125 runs to India at Old Trafford.
A lot of credit must be given to the host broadcaster for the daily reports and comments from players and coaching staff.
Here are a couple of them:
JUNE 22 – REVIEW OF MATCH v NEW ZEALAND
Few people could have predicted that Carlos Brathwaite would produce such a spectacular innings as the West Indies came within a foot of stunning New Zealand.
But skipper Jason Holder was not the least bit surprised at the way his all-rounder smashed a sensational century in a heartbreaking five-run defeat.
Left to bat with the tail, and with the West Indies hopes hanging by a thread, Brathwaite produced a knock of blistering brutality on his way to 101, but with one more hit required, he could not quite clear the long-on boundary off the bowling of Jimmy Neesham, with Trent Boult snaffling the ball just inside the rope.
This knock, according to the report, outshone even the quartet of sixes that Brathwaite hit to clinch the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2016 (against England), with Holder paying tribute to his teammate.
“His work ethic is really good. He’s not one to shy away from his responsibilities. And he puts in a really good effort into his preparation,” Holder said.
“That’s one thing that I credit him for. The knock that he played is not surprising to me.
“We let ourselves down in the middle, no doubt. We were always up with the run rate. It wasn’t a case where we needed to keep going, per se. We just needed to keep our wickets intact. Set it up in there, a really good foundation. And we weren’t able to do that in the middle overs.
“But we fought back well. And Carlos and the other guys at the lower half really gave us a chance. But as I said, you can look back and pinpoint one or two areas when you lose a great game. Having said that, I still think we played a really good game.”
Holder felt there were a lot of positives to take from a thrilling encounter, arguably the best of the tournament so far, as West Indies almost chased down 292 on a slow wicket.
“We fought right to the very end. We came right back into the game when pretty much everyone thought the game was over,” Holder said.
“And credit to the lower half. The guys really put it in their hands today and took responsibility. Top-notch by Carlos. He was outstanding. He gave us a chance, gave us hope. Just unfortunate at the very end that we weren’t able to get a win.
“It’s just a little disappointing, obviously, not being able to close. But I’m proud of the guys.
“I guess everybody could sit here and agree that we’d love to see that a little bit more often. But that’s the general feeling within the entire group. I think as a team we just need to be a lot more consistent.”
JUNE 28 – HEAD COACH REIFER TALKS AHEAD OF LAST TWO MATCHES
West Indies head coach Floyd Reifer urged his players to play for pride as they start to rebuild for the future.
Reifer and Holder held an impromptu team meeting for 90 minutes after the defeat against India and Reifer, who replaced Richard Pybus on the eve of the World Cup, wants to see a response against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan in their concluding matches.
“We had some frank discussions about the World Cup that we’ve had and we’ll try to finish the tournament as a strong unit now,” he said.
“This is about our journey, there is cricket after this World Cup and we need to find that winning formula and culture again.
“We’ve not done too well in the World Cup, we can see improvements but we need to put together a complete game.
“The guys bowled well against India and the fielding was much improved but it’s about getting all three departments working together to win cricket games.”
Perhaps Holder and Reifer, as Barbadians, can use the motto “Pride and Industry”.
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). Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com