Cricket Xtra: West Indies cricket is crumbling

In this week's look at the world of cricket, we cast an eye at the Caribbean where the once proud cricketing country seems to be tearing itself apart from the inside.

Ajit Vijaykumar
by Ajit Vijaykumar
5th October 2015

article:5th October 2015

Simmons (c) was sacked after speaking out over selection.
Simmons (c) was sacked after speaking out over selection.

West Indies cricket is in crisis. This piece of news has been played in loop for such a long time now, it doesn‘t elicit the same response as it once used to, and should do. Nowadays, when fans face another revelation about the poor state of Caribbean cricket, all they can do is shake their head in familiar disbelief.

One crisis is generally enough to rock the boat. The West Indies had two within the span of a few days. First came the news of West Indies coach Phil Simmons being suspended for his comments on selection policy. He was unhappy with the ODI squad for the Sri Lanka tour, stating that he was not given the best possible ODI team.

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He wanted experienced all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard to be considered for selection after garnering the support of captain Jason Holder and Clive Lloyd, the chairman of selectors. But the views of those actually handling the team didn’t matter as they were out-voted during the selection meeting, which didn’t go down well with Simmons.

As soon as the coach made his displeasure public, the West Indies Cricket Board suspended the former all-rounder and asked for an explanation from him. Irrespective of the end result of this confrontation, the fissures in West Indies cricket are out in the open. The mistrust between the players and administrators, which led to the team suspending last year’s India tour mid way that led to Bravo and Pollard’s exclusion in the first place, has reached such a toxic level that the results on the field just don’t seem to matter.

It’s poignant that this act of seeming indifference towards the health of Caribbean cricket came a few days before the West Indies were officially out of the reckoning for a spot in the 2017 Champions Trophy. The elite ODI tournament only has places for the top eight ranked teams and as of September 30 – the cut-off date for the tournament – the West Indies weren’t one of them. Bangladesh made the cut and that pretty much sums up the state of West Indies cricket. 

A team that gained Test status at the start of this century has overtaken the two-time world champions for a place in the championship. It’s evident that the situation is dire in West Indies cricket. The real fear now is that the national team is becoming irrelevant to international cricket. 

Make no mistake, Caribbean cricketers are hot property when it comes to Twenty20 leagues around the world. A Chris Gayle, Pollard, Bravo or Sunil Narine will continue to attract big bucks for their talent in T20 but the national side will continue sliding into obscurity. The more the infighting goes on, the more the matches involving the West Indies lose their importance.

If the pathetic state of affairs continues, it won’t be long before people start questioning their Test status. I know they have a proud and rich history but most would agree that Ireland will offer a much better fare in the five-day game than the West Indies can hope to at this point.

But there are still some among us who remain optimistic. They hold on to memories of an era gone by where outlandishly talented individuals kept their personal differences aside and played to succeed on the field. Their numbers are dwindling by the day and when the last supporter switches sides, West Indies cricket would have reached a point of no return. And looking at the way the West Indies board is handling its affairs, they are speeding towards it. 

Early warning signs
The first T20 between India and South Africa was a high-scoring affair and the Proteas came out on top while chasing a stiff target at the picturesque Dharamsala stadium. It’s never easy chasing 200 in a T20 but South Africa coasted towards the total.

While it’s difficult to gauge where a team stands from a T20 performance, some assessments can be made. Firstly, it is clear India are in for a tough time against South Africa at home, which happens every tour. Secondly, batsmen from both sides look in form and one should expect some scintillating batsmanship over the next couple of months across formats.

And thirdly, India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will play the biggest role in India’s performances. The Proteas proved they can match India’s batsmen shot for shot. Where the Indians have the edge is spin bowling and Ashwin showed he is miles ahead of everyone during the T20 game.

His flight and control was mesmerising to watch and in a game where the Indians leaked 200 runs, Ashwin gave way just 26 runs from his four overs and also took the prized scalp of AB de Villiers after the batsman was well set.

Ashwin has raised his game to a new level and given the way the Proteas struggled to play him, he should look forward to some fruitful days on the field. As for the Proteas, the most pragmatic way of tackling him would be to simply play him out. It’s going to be riveting.