West Indies’ disastrous 2021 ICC T20 World Cup campaign finally drew to a close today with an 8-wkt loss to Australia and a promised reboot from team captain Kieron Pollard.
The ‘Men in Maroon’, Pollard admitted, came to Dubai with the intention of clobbering their way to success. The results, four losses with a solitary win off the last ball against Bangladesh, spoke for themselves.
Today, West Indies managed a respectable 157 for 7 off their allotted 20 overs, but Australia got there relatively comfortably off 16.2 overs.
“We have to look at the way we play T20 cricket,” said Pollard, after the contest. “[…] What we’ve seen is that one guy in the top four has to bat as long as possible… We have to start from [the] foundation now; that is just the reality of the situation.”
Thirty-eight-year-old all-rounder Dwayne ‘Champion’ Bravo will not be a part of that rebuild, as he had announced his retirement earlier in the week. Forty-two-year-old opener Chris ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle has not pronounced publicly on his future yet but, after the match, he notably joined Bravo in accepting the public plaudits of the Australia team who saw them off with a guard of honour.
Bravo and Gayle have already secured their places as legends of the West Indies’ white ball game—the latter certainly having a case for inclusion among the game’s greats. In any format. Caribbean cricket fans, though, may have mixed feelings about their role in a dismal campaign, some perhaps even attempting to blame Gayle alone for the farce.
“Overall, it’s been a disappointing campaign,” said Pollard. “In terms of the batting, we have not done well at all. Our bowling has been decent but not good enough…”
The fielding was no better. no matter the department, no matter the yardstick, West Indies were simply sub-standard.
Once the rulers of cricket, in the last decade, West Indies have seen their empire shrink to just the T20 version of the game. No other nation has ever won two ICC T20 titles but at the moment that does seem little more than a hollow boast.
Today, against an Australia team fighting for their lives in the competition, West Indies’ looked the better side for roughly three overs.
In the second over of the match, openers Gayle and Evin Lewis got stuck into Australian pacer Josh Hazlewood like hungry diners into a buss-up-shot meal on Divali afternoon. Lewis spanked each of the first three deliveries for four before Gayle hit the fifth for six to see WI to 20 without loss.
But a queasy feeling in the pit of the stomach quickly followed, as Gayle, who batted wearing shades, was bowled by Pat Cummings—two balls into the next over. And in the fourth over, Hazlewood returned to claim the wickets of Roston Chase and Nicholas Pooran. West Indies 35 for 3.
To the credit of the Caribbean tourists, they did not capitulate. Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer put on 35 runs for the fourth wicket before the former departed for 29 (26 balls, 5 x 4). Hetmyer finished with 27 (28 balls, 2 x 4) and Pollard had his best knock of the tournament with 44 (31 balls, 4 x 4, 1 x 6).
Smashing Mitchell Starc’s last two balls of the 20th over for sixes, Andre Russell (18 off 7 , 1 x 4, 2 x 6) too got to double figures for the first time. And West Indies batted out the 20 overs and set Australia a respectable target of 157 runs at a required run rate of 7.85.
That proved meat and drink to the Aussies who got there with 22 balls to spare. Opener David Warner was particularly severe on the WI bowlers, storming his way to an unbeaten 89 off 56 deliveries (9 x 4, 4 x 6).
It was a fitting retort by the talented left-hander, whose place in the Australia XI had been questioned going into today’s affair.
“We held our nerve nicely,” Australia captain Aaron Finch responded to the naysayers. “The way [David Warner] managed his innings, got off to a flyer and allowed Mitch Marsh to get into his innings—he’s been a super player for a long time. I can’t understand why people doubted him.”
Gayle, though, was not able to answer his own critics. At the death, he took the ball and might have accounted for Warner had Pooran not spurned a good stumping opportunity down the leg-side.
Then, in what proved to be the penultimate over of the contest, the ‘Universe Boss’ managed to earn a late keepsake with the wicket of Mitchell Marsh. He celebrated by jumping onto Marsh’s back.
Gayle’s broad smile, playful nature and spontaneous dance moves have always been a huge part of his charm. But they once came in the same package as scintillating strokeplay.
In Dubai, he has shown himself to be more mascot than lynchpin.
“It’s the end of a generation,” said Pollard. “[…] We have some guys who have done good things for T20 cricket in our team and around the world. We as a people are very proud.”
Most people are not even the best in their village at any particular thing. Gayle and Bravo became indisputably two of the best on the planet in the most lucrative of cricket’s international formats. They will be remembered fondly for doing so.
But maybe now is too soon. First, West Indies fans have to bury the shame and hurt from their team’s failed excursion to the Middle East.
West Indies: 157/7 (Kieron Pollard 44, Evin Lewis 29; Josh Hazlewood 4/39)
Australia: 161/2 (David Warner 89*, Mitchell Marsh 53; Chris Gayle 1/7)
Man of the Match: David Warner
Result: Australia won by 8 wkts