Watching the West Indies in their opening match against India of the ICC T2o World Cup now on in Bangladesh, a number of things become clear; or certainly seem to become clear. Chief among them is that many of the players are either incapable or learning or are very, very slow to learn. The defending champions meekly succumbed to some disciplined swing and spin bowling from the Indians and only managed to post a paltry 129 for 7, a total that saw them lose by seven wickets.
Every man and his wife know that the West Indies have some of the best power hitters in the world. They can do things that many other teams struggle to do. When the playing surface is to their liking the West Indies can blitz the very best of bowling attacks but change things up a little and they falter like lambs as we saw on Sunday.
Since the West Indies began playing T20 cricket a few years ago, it has become common place for those watching to hear commentators and pundits reach the conclusion that the West Indies don’t do a good enough job taking singles. If the ball is not coming on to the bat we often see the batsmen try to smash the ball straight to fielders or into the pitch. Time and time again it happens, and time and time again, the message fails to get through. Against India on Sunday, we saw that nothing has changed.
Early on in their inning, West Indies batsmen Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith struggled to smash boundaries. Smith scored 11 off 29 balls before he gave Ravichandran Ashwin catching practice, popping the ball back to the bowler for a return catch, caught between trying to hit and trying to play with soft hands but ended up doing neither. Gayle was a bit better even though, not at his usual standard.
The big man scored 34 from 33 balls but was dropped twice and largely seemed uncomfortable with what was happening in the middle. One by one they came and one by one they failed, none learning from the other. Hardly anyone tried to use their feet to close down the angles on the swinging medium pace deliveries or to manipulate the spinners into spaces to take singles.
After all this time playing in all the T20 leagues around the world where they collectively have made millions of dollars, West Indies’ batsmen seem to have learned nothing about how to adjust their game. Everything is a smash regardless of whether it goes to a fielder or to their boundary. For once I would love to see them make that mental adjustment; force the bowlers to do something different.
Here is some simple math for them to consider. Six singles gets one the same result as one big smash that clears the boundary. It also bears noting that if more focus is placed on taking singles and taking advantage of the occasional bad ball, there is a greater chance of scoring a lot more runs even when the situation is not ideal. Who knows what would have happened had the West Indies not scored on more than half the 120 balls they faced. Just maybe an additional 30 or 40 runs could have been scored, which could have allowed the bowlers a little more wiggle room and just maybe find a way to eke out a victory.
Examples of how they could have approached the game were right there in front of them when India was at the crease. Easy singles into the gaps and taking advantage of bad balls got India over the line quite easily. That India won with only two balls to spare gave the illusion that the match was close. It was far from it. In real terms India won by a mile because they took a smart approach to scoring runs while the West Indies batsmen did not.