At 25 for 1 in the fourth over of England’s pursuit of 55 in the West Indies’ opening match of the 2021 T20 World Cup campaign, Win Predictor gave Kieron Pollard’s side a 1% chance of victory. On commentary on television at the time, former England captain Michael Atherton questioned that, deeming it ‘generous’.
In the event, it was all over before you could say ‘Jack rob Haiti’. And if we are not careful, that sentence may eventually come to refer not just to the very one-sided match but to the West Indian title defence as well.
On the evidence of Saturday, careful is the one thing Kieron Pollard’s WI seem NOT prepared to be. He did not say so himself but Nicholas Pooran, his vice-captain, certainly did.
“Yes,” he gave the assurance in a media conference last Tuesday, “singles are a part of the game but our focus is not too much on singles. We won two World Cups with the same problem.
“[…] I don’t think the emphasis is on getting singles.”
Darm right; it ain’t!
Ask Ravi Rampaul. The 37-year-old veteran pacer lost his middle stump to leg-spinner Adil Rashid attempting an agricultural hoick at a delivery pitched on the stumps.
There were still all of five overs left in the innings!
Which non-West Indian player, pray, with just two active brain cells would not have been telling himself under the circumstances that the worst thing he could do at that stage would be to get out?
“Leh mih settle fuh singles,” a sane, sober adult with more than space between his two ears would have been telling himself, “and see if me and Akeal could bat out the 20 overs.”
Instead, this: “Singles? Who want singles when I could hit four and six? Who you tink I is, Cheteshwar Pujara?
“I is ah West Indian. Ah have to make a brilliant escape…”
The bards are ever ready with an explanation of familiar phenomena. Particularly in October, Calypso History Month:
Many times I wanted to run/But the English slavemaster/
Standing there with a gun./I know he going to shoot to kill/
So ah stay, ah stay and ah pray/But ah planning still./
Ah study night and day how to get away/
Ah got to make a brilliant escape… (my emphasis)
I’m speculating, of course. But with good reason. Hear skipper Pollard in the media conference on the eve of Saturday’s game:
“What Carlos [Brathwaite] did with those four deliveries (in the final over of the 2016 final) is something we actually saw last night and it brought goosebumps back to us.”
I’d wager that the team also indulged in the emotional masturbation of watching the film of the 1975 and the 1979 World Cup finals. But they stayed far away from the 1983 final, the essential one for today’s West Indians.
Clive Lloyd’s 102 off 85 balls (12 x 4, 2 x 6) in 1975 was brilliant, the skipper rescuing, in partnership with Rohan Kanhai, his side from a shaky 50 for 3.
In 1979, the score was 55 for 3 when Lloyd entered and 99 for four when he departed. Viv Richards’ 138 came off 157 balls with 11 fours and three sixes.
But the brilliant innings was Collis King’s 86 off 66 balls with ten fours and three sixes.
From 238 for 5 at the all-rounder’s dismissal, WI subsided to 286 for 9, with numbers 7 to 11 getting 5, 0, 0, 0, and 0 not out respectively.
But in the end, it was wonderful stuff to warm the cockles of all West Indian hearts.
Not the case in 1983 when we chased the treble.
Jeff Dujon’s 25—with one six and no fours off 73 balls!—was the second highest score after Richards, blasting seven fours in 33 off 28 balls, had threatened to take his team past India’s 183 in 20 overs or so.
But who remembers that? Not Pollard’s men. Certainly not Pooran!
He was not among the nine who committed obvious hara-kiri. But his was the same mind-set; it was his execution that let him down, he succeeding merely in getting an edge when the intention was to clear long-off.
Ditto Andre Russell. The loss of his middle stump to a Rashid googly deflected attention away from the hoo-ha he had had at the first ball he received from Chris Jordan.
Pollard and Pooran don’t call them that but hoo-has have become the West Indian T20 stock in trade. When the contact is perfect—for example, Pollard’s six sixes against Sri Lanka—the ‘power-hitting’ euphemism passes muster. But when things go awry…
And when you are up against a cricketing brain such as Eoin Morgan’s, the going awry odds hardly favour you.
Consider this: by cricketing standards, the Dubai International Stadium is a large ground. And only two players are allowed outside the 30-yard circle during the first Powerplay.
What that means is that, until the end of the sixth over, there are acres of space available beyond the inner circle.
Evin Lewis was out in over #2, Lendl Simmons was out in over #3 and Shimron Hetmyer was out in over #5. How? Not LBW or bowled or run out but caught.
In the slips? In gully? By the bowler?
No, sirree! In the deep! Swinging for the hills! And making proper contact! With only two men strategically placed near the boundaries!
Top-scorer Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo too swung for the hills; in their case, the contact was less good. But no less fatal.
And the Powerplay had already ended. But in the eighth over when Gayle, for instance, lost his head and his wicket, three wickets had already fallen.
I think most WI supporters would have forgiven him if he had opted for circumspection. Consolidation. Occupation.
But like Rampaul, the ‘Universe Boss’ and Hetmyer and Simmons and Lewis are West Indians. Circumspection? What on earth is that?
The short answer is this: it is the opposite of what we saw from skipper Pollard who, with seven wickets already down and the 50-run milepost still up ahead, still strove manfully to clear the long boundary. In vain!
And from Obed McCoy. Off the very next ball! With the wickets tally now reading eight!
Maybe Akeal Hosein, who started as a reserve in the travelling squad, never played a false shot in his 13–ball unbeaten 6 because, in his mind, he has not quite sealed a spot on the team.
He’s the only one still striving to make his mark. Give him time.
So, all in all, if you are hoping for a change of approach when WI take the field against the Proteas on Tuesday, don’t put God out of your thoughts and tell the captain and vice-captain that.
You are likely to end up like Bally, who, in ‘Maxi dub’, asked ‘the drive to play a little sorfer’.
“All mih family,” he reports, “the drive expose to me/how deh born.”
Don’t run the risk of having a Tuesday insult added to Saturday’s injury.