By Tony McWatt
Played 21, Won 5 Lost 16. That is this year’s 2022 record of One Day International (ODI) matches played by the West Indies team following its 1-2 loss to New Zealand in the Barbados-hosted August 17-21 three-match series. A record made even more dismal by the actuality of no less than four of those five wins having been against Ireland (1) and the Netherlands (3), two teams well below the West Indies on the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) ODI rankings. The recent August 17 first ODI victory over New Zealand was the West Indies’ only win against a top-five ICC-ranked team this year.
The eventual 1-2 series loss against the Kiwis has now left the West Indies sitting seventh with 88 points on the ICC’s Super League standings to determine automatic qualifications for next year’s ICC ODI World Cup and with no more matches available to be played. Only the top seven teams, plus India as tournament hosts, will secure automatic qualification berths for the World Cup. Australia (70 points), Sri Lanka (62 points) and South Africa (49 points) are, however, among the six teams currently placed below the West Indies. All three of those with sufficient available matches in hand to more than likely accumulate the additional points (10 per win) that will allow each to easily move past the West Indies in the standings by the time the Super League reaches its conclusion.
When and if it happens, the West Indies’ failure to secure automatic qualification to the 2023 World Cup will be yet another colossal embarrassment for the two-time former champions. The West Indies, of course, won both the 1975 and 1979 first and second editions of the ICC ODI World Cup. They were also the unexpected losing finalists to India in the third which was played in 1983. Failure to secure 2023 automatic qualification will add further to the embarrassment the West Indies has already suffered from having likewise failed to do so for this year’s ICC T20 World Cup, a tournament for which they are also two-time former champions.
Collectively, the West Indies’ dismal performances at last year’s T20 World Cup which resulted in their non-automatic qualification for this year’s tournament, the aforementioned ultra-pathetic 2022 ODI record, as well as the now more than likely eventual below eight-spot 2023 Super League finish, should all combine to serve as the final nails in the coffin for head coach Phil Simmons and his coaching cadre, the replacement calls for which are now expected to reach crescendo levels. Simmons was recruited in October 2019 on a four-year contract that was supposed to go through to next year’s 2023 ODI World Cup.
Simmons’ current tenure is his second term at the helm of the West Indies team. He was initially appointed as head coach in 2015 but was subsequently fired within the first two years of that contract, “due to differences in culture and strategic approach!” The dismal overall record combined with inconsistent, roller-coaster-like performances of the West Indies teams under his coaching management has, however, resulted in resurrected calls for his replacement and that of his entire coaching staff.
Such calls were first heard as far back as a year ago. The outspoken, former West Indies Test opener, Barbados-born Philo Wallace was among the first of those questioning the duration of Simmons’ four-year contract and advocating for his replacement. In recent times Wallace’s call has been loudly echoed by at least two very prominent, widely respected, West Indies cricket personalities.
Sir Andy Roberts, universally regarded as the Godfather of the world-famous lineage of fast bowlers the Caribbean has produced from the mid-1970s until now including Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Sylvester Clarke, Patrick Patterson, Courtney Walsh, Ian Bishop and Curtly Ambrose, recently publicly questioned Simmons’ value as West Indies Head Coach. Speaking on the very popular, Barbados-hosted (Andrew) Mason & Guests weekly Radio Programme, Roberts suggested that Cricket West Indies (CWI) had erred when they re-hired Simmons for his current four-year contract.
“We picked him up (immediately after Ricky Skerritt took office as CWI President) and gave him a four-year contract instead of an initial two-year term which depending on his production could have been extended further,” noted Roberts. “He surrounds himself with people whom, from all that we can see, do not really bring a difference to the team!”
Roberts’ expressed concerns have also been supported by the veteran Caribbean cricket Radio Commentator, Joseph “Reds” Pereira. In a most recent interview with the Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper, Reds advocated that much of the blame for the defeats the West Indies have suffered in the white-ball, limited overs, formats have been brought on by Simmons and his coaching staff.
“If you look at Phil Simmons’ white ball record it speaks for itself. I think he has brought a lot of the defeats on himself. We got to the point where Jason Holder was opening with Devon Thomas, while our two absolute best bowlers, Alzarri Joseph and Akheal Hosein were being rested for crucial must-win T20I matches. The batting order was all over the place and we have not seen much improvement in either our batters or bowlers!”
“His track record hasn’t been good, His tenure hasn’t worked, The records are there to be seen!” “The players don’t seem to be equipped. When players aren’t technically equipped to play the short-ball or top-class spin, it points to the coaching staff.”
In support of Reds’ expressed views and as even more damning as evidence of Simmons’ coaching inadequacies has been the repeated failure of the West Indies batting and bowling units to perform harmoniously together. As evidenced during the recent Series against New Zealand, when the bowling has clicked the batting has failed and vice versa.
In the second ODI, having won the first and with a chance to go two up and seal the series, the West Indies bowlers did a highly commendable job of demolishing New Zealand’s very powerful batting lineup to a very gettable first-strike total of 212/10-48.2 overs. Set to make 213 at a very moderate required run rate of 4.26 for a series-clinching victory, the West Indies batsmen, however, folded disappointingly to be all out for 161 in 35.3 overs.
In the third and final ODI, with the series outcome on the line, it was the batsmen’s time to shine and the bowlers to disappoint. The West Indies posted 50 overs total of 301/8 proving to be a cakewalk for New Zealand’s batsmen in the face of some wayward bowling. New Zealand easily reached their target for the loss of just five wickets and with as many as seventeen balls still available, to clinch both the match and the series.
The West Indies’ next white-ball encounters will be their participation in the forthcoming T20 World Cup Super12 Qualification Tournament, immediately after which will be the commencement in a new four-year 2023 – 2027 cycle of ICC Future Tours Programme engagements. Phil Simmons and his coaching cadre are expected to still be at the helm for the West Indies T20 World Cup participation. Unless the T20 World Cup performances are extraordinarily favourable, however, come early 2023 Simmons could well find himself out of a job months before the scheduled conclusion of his current contract.
About The Writer: Guyana-born, Toronto-based, Tony McWatt is the Publisher of both the WI Wickets and Wickets/monthly online cricket magazines that are respectively targeted toward Caribbean and Canadian readers. He is also the only son of the former Guyana and West Indies wicket-keeper batsman the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.