T2021 W/C: Pollard: ‘[WI] lacked cricket smarts’; Hetmyer hits 81 in vain as S/Lanka k.o. champs

Twenty-five year old Sri Lankan pacer Chamika Karunaratne tapped his temple and then tapped his heart, after dismissing West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell for two runs in today’s ICC T20 World Cup contest.

And, just to be sure nobody missed it, Karunaratne repeated the gesture.

By then, West Indies were 94 for 5 with a run rate of roughly 16 required  to get to Sri Lanka’s total of 189 for 3. And few could argue that the ‘Men in Maroon’ had displayed either the thoughtfulness or the passion needed to remain in the competition.

Photo: Members of the West Indies team await the pre-match formalities at the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE.

In the end, Sri Lanka, already eliminated from the knockout phase before the start of play, won by 20 runs to ensure that captain Kieron Pollard and his troops will follow them into the departure lounge.

West Indies have a final game against Australia on Saturday but its outcome is only academic now. For the first time at an ICC T20 World Cup, the Maroon Men have suffered the ignominy of elimination before the completion of the group stage.

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“We have spoken time and time again, especially from a batting perspective, [about] what we need to do as individuals and we have not done well,” said Pollard, in the post-match interview. “A couple of young guys are putting up their hands but the experienced guys, myself included, have not done well.” 

For at least one veteran, 38-year-old Trinidad and Tobago all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, it was time to say goodbye.

“I think the time has come, ” said Bravo, who won the ICC Champions Trophy (2004) and two ICC T20 World Cups (2012, 2016). “I’ve had a very good career. To represent the West Indies for 18 years, [I’ve] had some ups and downs, but as I look back at it I’m very grateful to represent the region and the Caribbean people for so long.

Photo: West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo announced his international retirement on 4 November 2021.
(Copyright ICC/ Getty)

“[…] One thing I am proud about is that the era of cricketers we had, we were able to make a name for ourselves on the global stage and not only do that but have silverware to show for it.”

With an unlikely win over Australia on Saturday, the Caribbean cricketers can still make a mark on the 2021 competition. That could potentially see South Africa qualify for the semifinals ahead of the Aussies. But it would be scant consolation for a dismal campaign.

WI have won just one from their last five T20I matches, not counting the two warm-up defeats to Pakistan and Afghanistan. That is not the sort of form to trouble any of the elite cricket nations.

Unfairly or not, iconic 42-year-old West Indies batsman Chris ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle has come to symbolise his team’s malaise. Gayle was dismissed for one run today, after offering Wanindu Hasaranga—just eight balls into his team’s reply—a straightforward catch off Binura Fernando’s bowling innings. 

Gayle’s average for 2021 is 16 from 20 matches and his highest score, made against a weakened Australia team on 16 July, over his last ten T20I matches is 21. Four days earlier, he had made 67, his best score of the year by some distance.

Photo: Veteran West Indies batsman Chris Gayle’s best score at the 2021 T20 World Cup, after four matches, is the 13 top-score he made in the pathetic 55 all out against England.
(Copyright BBC/ Getty Images)

It says a lot about the current state of the West Indies T20 team that, despite the objections of former icon Sir Curtly Ambrose, Gayle has remained an automatic pick for Pollard’s team.

Whether or not any of the other available batsmen in the UAE—Andre Fletcher (a substitute) or Darren Bravo (a travelling reserve)—represents an upgrade is another story.

In any case, Gayle is hardly the only thing wrong with the West Indies these days.

The Sri Lankan team, with an average age of 26, produced their best batting performance of the tournament, 24-year-old Charith Asalanka leading the way with 68 off 41 deliveries (8 x 4, 1 x 6). Despite the vast experience they boast, WI could not match them.

Chasing 190 to keep their title defence alive, WI were 10 for 2.

Photo: West Indies opener Evin Lewis drives through the off-side during the Third ODI against Australia at Kensington Oval, Barbados on 26 July 2021.
(via CWI Media)

Roston Chase (9 off 8, 2 x 4) went to a brilliant catch by Bhanuka Rajapaksa off Karunaratne for 9 while Pollard was bowled first ball by Hasaranga and Russell (2 off 4) , Jason Holder (8 off 5) and Bravo (2 off 3) also went cheaply.

Karunaratne’s memorable celebration against ‘Dre Russ’ stung in more ways than one. 

WI coach Phil Simmons crowed about the importance of experience for the 2021 competition, yet Karunaratne was playing in only his 13th T20I today; in Russell’s case, that number was 65.

Before this afternoon, when he dismissed Gayle (1 off 5) with his second ball, Binura had four T20I caps under his belt. In this format, the veteran Jamaican has represented the region no fewer than 77 times.

Batting at three, WI vice-captain Nicholas Pooran put some gloss on the scorecard with 46 (6 x 4, 1 x 6) and added 30 runs for the fourth wicket with Shimron Hetmyer. At the close, Hetmyer remained unbeaten with 81 from 54 balls.

Photo: West Indies batsman Shimron Hetmyer hits out during T20 action against New Zealand at Bay Oval in Tauranga on 29 November 2020.
(Copyright Phil Walter/Getty Images)

That pair of left-handers apart, no WI batsman got to double figures.

Pooran is 26 years old, Hetmyer 24. Together, they should be at the core of WI limited overs future—perhaps even of all three formats of the game. But we won’t see much more of them in this competition.

“Hetmyer batted brilliantly at the end. That’s what we know he can do as an individual,” said the 34-year-old Pollard. “Come in early, knock the ball around and explode at the end. That’s what we want to see from him, a bit more consistency. Him and Pooran. We know we have these guys.”

The scorecard showed that Sri Lanka scored 46% of their total in boundaries (17 x 4, 3 x 6); WI got 64% of their final score (18 x 4, 6 x 6) via that route.

It has been, emphatically, the West Indian way. Equally indisputably, in Dubai on Thursday, it was simply not successful.

Photo: West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell (right) goes bowled for a duck by England’s Adil Rashid googly  on 23 October.
His scores at the 2021 World Cup are 0, 5, 0 and 2.

“The way Sri Lanka played, they didn’t bat us out of the game but they played very smartly,” said Pollard. “[They hit] only three sixes but 17 fours, ran a lot of twos, so they didn’t give us chances… I think cricket smarts is something that has plagued us.

“[…] We are not going to hide from the fact that it’s been disappointing for us. I’m sure all the guys are hurting in that dressing room. It’s something we didn’t see coming but we have to face reality.”

Having opened the competition with an embarrassing 55 all out total against England, WI be hard-pressed to conjure a dignified exit against an Australia team still fighting to stay alive.

“I think in the white ball formats, West Indies cricket have a bright future and it’s important for us to keep supporting the guys and keep encouraging them,” said Bravo. “It wasn’t the World Cup we expected, it wasn’t the World Cup we wanted as players. We shouldn’t feel sorry for ourselves; it was a tough competition.

“We should keep our heads high.”

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (far right) leads his troops on to the field during the 2021 T20 World Cup.

Match Summary

Toss: West Indies

Sri Lanka 189 for 3 (Charith Asalanka 68, Pathum Nissana 51; Andre Russell 2/33, Dwayne Bravo 1/42)

West Indies 169 for 8 (Shimron Hetmyer 81*, Nicholas Pooran 46; Wanindu Hasaranga 2/19, Chamika Karunaratne 2/43)

Man of the Match: Charith Asalanka

Result: Sri Lanka won by 20 runs

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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6 comments

  1. We never played the West Indian game.
    Comparing the boundaries of Sri Lanka to paint a picture that they batted smartly is superficial at best.
    Sri Lanka would have made 40 – 50 runs less had West Indies included SunilNarine in the team. It means that, instead of west indies fielding on the back foot, it would have been Sri Lanka…. The twos would have been ones and dots…. These numbskulls have no idea what they did by not including a WORLD CLASS spinner in the team.
    Pollard’s leadership was weak, my guess is that the psychology of marshaling a team without the best players got to him. He had to work around so much that he lost his way. You saw it with Bravo as well. He couldn’t execute his plans to get batters out because the bowling line-up around him was ineffective, and the main reason for that is…..????
    Simmons and Harper must go now! There is absolutely no excuse for the omission of Narine and Rutherford, especially in hindsight.
    Pollard has disqualified himself from leading the team, and he, and Estwick should resign over the selection of Gayle and the omission of Lendl Simmons in a must-win game… This shows to me that these men have placed higher valence on the legacy of an individual over the support and dreams of the people of the West Indies., and that is downright disrespectful.
    This also shows how much of a boss Darren Sammy is compared to Pollard,….. Cricket the game comes first… Before ego, legacy, gold chains, and mates Down Under… Ok, Messrs Pollard, Bravo, Kraigg Brathwaite and King Lara….

    • Well-paid underperformers. These guys are not concerned about their legacy, much less West Indies cricket. A lot of huffing and puffing but no bite and worse yet, no pride in their individual game or improving their skill level.

  2. At the top of that heap (lacking the cricketing smarts) is Pollard. This is some of the worst cricket I’ve seen in a long time and those responsible must not be allowed to talk their way out of this one.
    The selection panel and the various officials on tour with the team must be fired.

    • Earl Best

      Knee-jerk, Jaill, which is not very smart.

      What we have to do is calmly and objectively analyse the reasons for the failures.

      And THEN fire all ah dem tail, starting with Harper!

    • Agree 100% with this.
      They all heard and read the criticism, and insisted on playing Sinatra…. So they all need to vacate…
      Phil Simmons
      Roddy Estwick
      Pollard
      Gayle
      Harper
      They should all do like Dwayne Bravo and RESIGN NOW!

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