Assistant coaches are the wretched of the earth; they may be called assistants but they offer little real help. Roddy Estwick is the assistant coach of the West Indies cricket team.
According to Estwick, the West Indies’ 15-run defeat by Australia in last Friday’s crucial fixture, had “nothing to do with the bowlers.”
It is out of the mouth of coaches and captains, says cricket’s good book, that thou hast perfected praise.
So Current West Indies coach Floyd Reifer declined to blame his skipper, Jason Holder.
“We kind of made some mistakes at key points in the game [but] it happens in cricket.” (my emphasis)
Former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd concurred.
Suggesting that “they simply did not capitalise on the early dismissals,” he called for the team to “look at the mistakes and rectify them” because “with a better analysis of the situation, they could have won that game.” (my emphasis)
Holder was much more specific when he spoke to the media.
“I thought we were well in the game there at the lunch time stage [but there were] just a few irresponsible shots when we probably just needed to tuck it around a little bit more.”
He goes on to cite Steve Smith’s batting deep and the Aussies bowling really well with the old ball.
“It’s a bit disappointing to be losing a game like that,” he ends, “when we’re in full control of the game but these things happen.”
In his immediate public post-game, he had told Michael Slater that he thought the game had turned when Smith was dropped relatively early in his innings. And, he had added, the batsmen had let themselves and the side down.
Let us all be very clear: this game was not lost by the batsmen. Sure WI would have liked to see them do better towards the end. But the match was lost when WI failed to capitalise on the early dismissals, allowing Australia to recover from 37 for 4 and then 79 for 5 to post 289.
And Holder is right; these things do happen. But there are reasons why they happen. In this case, the reason is that the captain messed up. Batting, bowling or fielding did not lose that game; captaincy did. And Holder must take full responsibility for it.
Get behind Lloyd’s and Reifer’s indirection; it is the captain who failed to make a proper analysis of the situation. It is he who made the mistake at [a] key point in the game and failed to capitalise on the early dismissals.
The batsmen might still have rescued him. But in that case WI would have won, as one former QRC captain advised me during the Carey/Smith partnership, not because of Holder but in spite of him.
And he would be hard-pressed to explain to prove otherwise.
On a cricket team, format notwithstanding, all 11 players need some grasp of geometry to improve their batting, bowling and fielding; boundary and cover fieldsmen ritually use Pythagoras’ theorem to make sure the ball will not get past them.
The captain, however, needs more. And in the short format, mastery of not just geometry but of mathematics is an essential element of the captain’s package. He requires genuine command of algebra, the ability to constantly solve for X. And the shorter the format, the greater the need for algebra. Often, one mistake and you’re a goner; you simply can’t pull it back.
In Sunday’s crucial game, India’s Virat Kohli identified Australia’s as Alex Carey’s dropping of Hardik Pandya off the first ball he received. A Facebook fan identified the West Indies’ as Holder’s pulling both pacemen out of the attack after reducing the Aussies to 37 for 4.
“…any reasonable captain would have at least kept on,” he wrote, “either of the two men who were pressurising the Australians.”
Who dares disagree?
Holder, I fear, has little grasp of algebra. It’s pure arithmetic. Not so Kohli.
India’s pattern on Sunday resembled the WI’s in the earlier game. Jasprit Bumrah only bowled three overs from the Vauxhall End before Kohli pulled him out of the firing line. And Bhuvneshwar was withdrawn at the Pavilion End after only five overs.
But Australia were 48 without loss after 10 overs whereas Holder’s opening bowlers had claimed four wickets within the first eight.
In his second over, first-change Pandya was taken for 19 runs. Kohli kept him on for another three; he conceded just 13.
Find me one example of a West Indian bowler leaking more than ten runs in an over in the first powerplay and I’ll show a game in which Holder either did not play or was off the field at that time.
In a crucial six-over spell in mid-innings, Kohli used five different bowlers. When the main spinners had bowled overs #19 and #20, it began to look like rain might bring DLS into play. Kohli turned temporarily to Bumrah. Neither he in over #21 from the Pavilion End nor Yuzvendra Chahal in #22 from the Vauxhall End could break through.
Time, the algebra said, to try to buy a second wicket. For #23, the skipper called on Kedar Jadhav’s low-arm off-spinners. Yadhav conceded 14. That one over was all he got.
So it’s emphatically NOT a formula. The algebra was against him. It had worked for him in the game against South Africa when he bowled four overs for 16 runs.
As for Bumrah, who must be held in reserve for the death, algebra permitting, of course, he was called up for another two-over spell just before the start of the final powerplay and for over #42 from the Pavilion End. Kohli kept three of his overs in the bank. Same for Bhuvneshwar. The pair claimed four of the last six wickets.
So the formula per se, I daresay, was not the problem; it’s the formulaicness, the lack of flexibility that did Holder and WI in…
I want to speculate wildly at a possible cause.
A man of few words, Holder listened as some of the other captains present at the 23 May media session discussed in hushed tones the 21 May death of former Formula One great Niki Lauda a couple days earlier. He overheard—thought he had heard—Kohli say that one formula is great.
And the way the weather in England looking this week, he mistake mighta done throw enough sand in West Indies 2019 rice to last another four years.
WI and we go find out tomorrow when, if the rain stop, we go get a chance to show England who is boss.