In today’s Third ODI, West Indies won the toss, the only outcome that was not seemingly pre-ordained. They opted not to bat first; cynics who watched all three games might be tempted to omit the last word.
When they did eventually take their turn at the crease in Chattogram, halfway through their 50-over allotment, they had already lost half the side for under 100. With the target of 298 still 205 runs off, something special was be needed to earn the ten World Cup Super League points coach Phil Simmons asked them to set their sights on.
Since they managed a combined total of only 270 runs off 76 overs in their two previous efforts, achieving that would be akin to a minor miracle.
For the third successive outing, they never looked close to helping themselves—the prerequisite, the old proverb says, for God to help them.
No surprise there. Even before their arrival in the subcontinent, everyone knew that this bunch would struggle. So, presumably did they. As one radio announcer put it baldly on Friday morning after they found themselves 0-2 down in the three-match series, ‘[a]s expected, Bangladesh defeated WI by seven wickets in the Second ODI’.
Former captain Clive Lloyd had enjoined them—in writing—to seize the time. Former pacer Curtly Ambrose had urged them to focus on personal achievement since victory would be but a mirage. If either Jason Holder or Kieron Pollard had any communication with the third string, they played their cards close to their chest.
The regional cricketing haute monde had opted—not for the first time in WI cricket history—to sit out Bangladesh, forcing the regional selectors to call up a substitute unit at short notice. On this occasion, however, they had not opted to serve Mammon rather than God; they had merely done the prudent thing and declined to venture into a country in the throes of a raging global pandemic.
So no Pollard, no Holder, no Darren Bravo, no Nicholas Pooran, no Shimron Hetmyer, no Evin Lewis, no Shai Hope. In a word, not to put too fine a point on it, generally no-hopers.
On the cricketing equivalent of an empty belly to boot.
Had the tour come in the middle of a full season, the selectors might have been able to string together a side which, though perhaps lacking in class, at least had some kind of form to recommend them. Alas, no such luck. And the performances, especially with the bat, provided eloquent testimony to that fact.
From an embarrassment of riches in the good old days, the WI performance in these three matches was simply an embarrassment. No fewer than 16 batsmen fell in single digits. No batsman even got to 50. Not once did the XI get to 200. Or utilise all 50 overs.
And WI had lost their most penetrative bowler, leg-spinner Hayden Walsh jr, to Covid-19 before the start of the first game. But almost half of the 30 wickets they lost fell to spin on tracks that generally helped the purveyors of the slower stuff.
The side contrived to get to 122 off 32.2 overs in the First ODI in Dhaka. Kyle Mayers, at #5, made a hard-hit 40 and Rovman Powell, batting at #7, contributed 28.
In the second game, they lasted just over 10 overs more than the previous match’s 32.2, adding 26 runs to the eventual team total. Powell moved down to #8 and up to top-scorer with 41. Nkrumah Bonner, at #7, was next-best with 20.
Promoted to #6, Powell made 47 in Chattogram and, with 27 from Raymon Reifer, batting at #8, the WI survived for 44.2 overs and added another 29 to their eventual total. The margin of defeat, however, was still 120 runs.
On the credit side, WI did deny the home captain the satisfaction—he noted it in his post-match remarks to Ian Bishop—of the 8-wicket win he was hoping for. And Akeal Hosein, whose left-arm spin earned him four of the 13 scalps the WI claimed, looked like he was not out of his depth in this arena.
Amid the overall lacklustre display, although he ended with only two wickets, the luckless Alzarri Joseph showed that he won’t be easy to handle in favourable conditions.
In all his post-game observations, Mohammed suggested that he was not displeased with the way his side had bowled but insisted consistently that the batsmen had let the side down. It seemed to have escaped his notice that Mayers had been given the new ball in the second game. Nor did he seem particularly aware that he himself, little more than a net bowler, had to send down as many as 18 of the 116 overs the home side had faced.
But, as Simmons observed in his post-match comments, it is over now. (He did not say the quiet part, thank God, out loud). WI now have to work very hard and look forward, no, look ahead to hosting Sri Lanka in March.
With hopefully no bio bubble, a full-strength unit and a new Test captain.
But WI fans will be looking ahead to next month’s two-Test series at the same venues with disquiet. Five members of the ODI side are retained in the 15-strong Test squad, none of them presumably particularly buoyed by his individual or the team’s collective performance.
It would have been nice if those selected on the XI for February had the time and the wherewithal to process into experience their recent experiences at these two venues. That, however, seems unlikely.
Inexperience, thus, remains a concern, especially in areas of obvious weakness. Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite averages 32.4 in his 64 Tests but his record in his five Tests as captain is not a particularly proud one. His deputy, Jermaine Blackwood, has played 33 Tests for an average of 32.53. His record as a batsman is, to be generous, spotty.
That these two players are guaranteed places on the starting XI does not exactly inspire confidence in the future of this second-rate squad.
We should keep them all in our prayers.