So the reigning T20 champions will miss out on the June 23 Edgbaston Champions Trophy final which, with luck, could feature India and South Africa. But it was neither Mother India nor Mother Africa that did the West Indies in, as the conspiracy theorists might argue. No, say the apologists, it was Mother Nature and Father Time who put us out.
I demur. It is true that, in yesterday’s final group stage match against South Africa, the West Indies were on 190 for 6 after 26.1 overs, in hot pursuit of 231 in 31 overs, when rain forced the players off the field. The interruption came after the scheduled time for play to stop; the rules do not allow play to restart.
So what happened? Since Duckworth/Lewis identified the par score at that stage as 190, the result was a tie. Three points each meant that, with their superior net run-rate, the Proteas rather than the Caribbean Cavaliers progressed to next week’s semis.
But the responsibility for the heart-breaking elimination lies not in our stars—I refer not to Marlon Samuels and Kieron Pollard—but in our selves.
For me, it lies squarely with the management of the team. Want a name? Ottis Gibson.
Let me explain. With Dwayne Bravo’s side on a mere 87 for 3 and well behind the required run-rate in over number 15, the heroic Samuels looked at the sky, saw and felt the drizzle. He took matters into his own hands.
The talented right-hander had dazzled us in the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka last year, particularly with his savaging of Lasith Malinga in the final. After a sedate start, he damblayed his impressive skills for us all yesterday. Wham, bam, slam; suddenly, he was on 48 off 38. And the WI had moved from behind the eight-ball to in front of it, needing little more than steady play to wrap up the rack.
With just nine runs per over needed off the remaining eight, Samuels smashed the first ball of the 24th over, bowled by Dale Steyn, through midwicket for four. 162 for 4. With five balls left to get a mere five runs to keep the required pace, he tried to repeat the shot off the second ball and lost his middle stump. 162 for 5.
“Samuels is not happy with himself,” the television commentator informed us.
How could he be? He had given his hand away unnecessarily at a crucial moment. How crucial?
“The West Indies,” the surprised commentator announced, “are one ahead of the par score.”
Bravo replaced Samuel and together with Pollard, he kept the pursuit going. At the end of the 26th over, the West Indies were 190 for 5, three ahead of the par score.
Neither skipper Bravo, freshly arrived from the pavilion, nor Pollard produced from either pocket a scrap of paper or any other document suggesting awareness of the precise Duckworth/Lewis situation. As far as I can make out, no message came from the pavilion either. Perhaps the pavilion felt there was no need.
“It (the par score) was on the scoreboard all the time,” De Villiers told post-match interviewer Pommie Mbangwa, “and we kept an eye on that.”
Interestingly, moments before, the WI skipper had responded to the same question differently.
“We are aware of what’s going on,” Bravo told Mbangwa, “we are aware of the weather.” (My emphasis)
Which is why I blame Gibson.
Would Samuels have perished as he did were he fully apprised of the situation? Would Pollard, on 28 off 22 balls, have taken “a wild swing at a delivery that wasn’t there to be hit,” as Michael Holding described it, had he been aware that, at 190 for 5, his side was three runs ahead of the par score?
Maybe. But I doubt it.
In my view, Gibson could not leave it to chance, should not have left it to chance. He needed to ensure that both batsmen knew precisely what was required if only by reminding them that the information was available on the scoreboard.
And then came ex-captain—not without reason!—Darren Sammy. With the rain still threatening, he strolled to the wicket. Was he aware that the scores were tied? Was Gibson? Another vital minute or two went over an unhurried mid-pitch conversation which seemed, strangely, like an afterthought.
It is possible that the ex-captain was belatedly delivering a message from the coaching staff to his successor. But even if he was, under the circumstances, there had to be much more urgency about it than there was.
Because, before another ball could be bowled, the skies opened. Match done. For good.
I fully expect the regional television analysts, to use the word loosely, with their—not to put too fine a point on it—dubious credentials to attribute the team’s elimination to “bad luck.”
But, really, gentlemen, the viewing public deserves a lot more than you offered us in this tournament.