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Saturday, September 19, 2009

T20 world cup-WI-a review

It would be no exaggeration to say that the West Indies, by reaching the semi- finals of the T20 World Cup, exceeded the expectations the majority of their supporters had at the beginning of the tournament. While they lacked the impetus to get them into the final, their unpredictability surprised teams who were expected to dispose of them easily and they showed from their first match that they were a team with enough ability to beat anyone. This unpredictability defined the entire tournament and no team had a more up and down tournament than the eventual champions Pakistan.

While it can be said that it was a good tournament for the West Indies it would be irresponsible to ignore the factors that caused the moments of poor play while magnifying the moments of brilliance. The matches won by the West Indies were all due to the performance of one or two individual players, showing a dependence on someone taking matters into their own hands rather than a collective effort. In T20 it is possible to win a match on the strength of a single good innings or bowling spell. But the West Indies must be mindful that in the longer versions of the game such reliance would be best replaced by a combined team effort.

The bowling, and in particular the opening bowlers, were plagued by inconsistency. After showing capability of a restrictive opening spell against Australia, Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor followed that performance by abandoning the line and length that had paid dividends and were duly taken apart by Sri Lanka. They showed that they were able to outthink batsmen by their clever use of short bowling against India, successfully exploiting the lack of technique shown by Indian top order. Against South Africa they showed their capability of pulling things back at the end of an innings and successfully restricting run flow .But they again ignored their previously successful methods in later matches and were expensive in the later overs in the semi final.

The lack of willingness to play two spinners in the same squad prevented the West Indies from participating in the latest technique for winning T20 matches. The other three semifinalists had at least two specialist spinners. Ajantha Mendis and Sajeed Ajmal ,who both played in the final, were among the highest wicket takers in the tournament. The effect of Mendis in particular propelled his team into the final by decimating most batting lineups, not the least of which were the West Indies.

The only specialist spinner carried by the West Indies was Sulieman Benn who performed admirably but would have been more impressive with another specialist spinner to bowl in tandem with. Chris Gayle used his off –spin regularly and generally to good effect, successfully restricting the opposition run rate, but his bowling was below par at the most crucial stage – the semi final.

The bowling of Dwayne Bravo was, as it usually is, very effective. His slower ball was effective during the death overs of many matches and he regularly came up with wickets when given the ball. He continued to show that he makes things happen with the ball and regularly repaid the captain’s faith that he makes things happen. However he remained expensive throughout the tournament and finished with one of the highest economy rates for bowlers with 10 wickets or more. This could be considered one of the marks of an attacking bowler and it could be said that he makes up for this by adding more pressure by tacking wickets but it is a factor that could be worked upon. His batting, especially against the spinners, showed that his stint in the IPL was invaluable to his development as a T20 batsman. The highlight of his batting was his knock against India where he masterfully turned a game that was seemingly heading towards a close finish into an easy win. His quick running at the wicket as well as his footwork against spin bowling provided the West Indies with much needed impetus at the #4 position.

Darren Sammy only got his chance when an injury to Fidel Edwards ruled him out of the final two games. His response, as it always is, was wholehearted and top-drawer. Given the new ball he bowled his full quota in both games and remained economical while also picking up wickets. He only made it to the crease against Sri Lanka at the end of the West Indian innings where he, like the rest of the team other than Chris Gayle, were unable to show what he was capable of with the bat. His fielding, like Bravo’s, was intense and athletic bringing a boost to the general level in the field.

The opening batsmen gave a tremendous warning to the rest of the tournament during their display against Australia. After this performance, one which sent opening bowlers from all the countries running to the nets to work on their bowling, the opening batsmen tried to do everything possible to prove that what happened against Australia was a one-time incident. Andre Fletcher made three consecutive ducks while partnering Gayle at the top of the innings and while his catching remained superb this was not enough to keep him in the team. His replacement for the semi-final, Xavier Marshall, also did not make the most of his opening spot. He made a first ball duck against Sri Lanka, the first wicket to fall during the Angelo Mathews over which changed the game. Marshall also failed to perform in the group stages at #4 in the order which brings about the question of whether his undisputed class will ever materialize into substantial performances for the West Indies.

Sarwan and Chanderpaul had little chance to show why they were indispensible in the longer versions of the game as they were sent in at #5 and #6. Frequently they were only at the wicket when several wickets had fallen and were required to play stabilizing innings. Unfortunately for the West Indies, only against England did they show they class with a match winning partnership during the rain shortened match.

The batting line-up on the whole remained brittle and was frequently saved by individual brilliance. This was most typified by Lendl Simmons against South where his 77 was 50 runs more than the next high score. In the semi-final this dependency was even more apparent as Gayle carried his bat through the innings for a score of 63*, while no one else in the team made double figures. Work will have to be done into eliminating this tendency for collapse, or at least more work will have to be done on the capability of rebuilding an innings.

Denesh Ramdin was impressive as always behind the stumps, where he managed to hold some spectacular catches but his performances in front of the stumps left much to be desired. His batting talent is evident but it is yet to be realized with a significant knock in this form of the game and it is something he would be eager to rectify. His captaincy in the group stage game against Sri Lanka was sound but he was undone by the waywardness of his bowling attack which in the end conceded a total that was beyond the capability of the batsmen.

Lendl Simmons is surely the player who gained the most from this experience. Brought in after missing the first game, he took four wickets against Sri Lanka. His partnership with Bravo against India was essential in turning the game around while his innings against South Africa was one which showed his class and power. If the rest of his career reflects the potential he has shown then he would look back on that innings as a watershed knock. Ducks against England and in the semi-final prevented him from a strong end to the tournament but he was unlucky against Sri Lanka after being bowled by a ball that was deflected back onto the stumps after hitting his thigh pad. His fielding remained of a high standard throughout the tournament and his catching was of the highest level.

Keiron Pollard played every match for the West Indies in the tournament. Considering his performances David Bernard will take it as a huge affront that he was not given a chance to play. With a reputation as a big hitter preceding him to the crease, he frequently managed to hit one or two balls to the boundary before proceeding to get out immediately after. He looked completely lost when faced with quality spin bowling and nowhere was it more apparent than against Sri Lanka when he was stumped down the leg-side after meandering aimlessly down the crease. His bowling was never threatening yet remained incapable of pulling back the run rate and the batsmen always looking capable of manipulating his bowling into gaps for runs while waiting for the inevitable bad delivery.

The fact that the West Indies were at all able to reach the semi-finals had more to do with individual performance rather than team efforts. The problem with this is that a team effort by the opponents would mean that the individual performance must be of an extraordinarily high standard for a win to be achieved. The win against Australia was set up by the opening partnership and especially by the awesome inning of 88 from 50 balls by Gayle which served to demolish the opponents. Bravo’s all-round performance against India where he took 4 for 38 and followed it by 66* was the deciding factor in that game. The other West Indian win was in the rain reduced game against England and it could be said that they were helped by the reduced score which they were given to chase.

In the end there were several which prevented the West Indies from winning the tournament but one of the most obvious was the generally poor level of feiling.

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