IT’S never pleasing to lose, no matter how well one has played, but the West Indies (WI) cricket team can feel proud of an obvious upgrade in their performances. That is the one noticeable feature of their T20 series against India last week that they lost 2-1. One can discern a marked improvement in the approach of the players since that disastrous loss against India, in their own Caribbean backyard, just a few months ago.
It is obvious the cricketers are enjoying their cricket more and that is a necessary first step in obtaining better results. Although there is more bounce in their step, plus increased enthusiasm, the skills needed to counteract the challenges of opposition must mature as the journey continues. Talented individuals make a team and no one must shirk that responsibility. Together, they ought to work as a unit until they are so meshed that the team operates as a single organ.
Therefore, concentration on skills in the T20 format must start now since the shaping of the side for the World Cup, in Australia, next October, is of paramount importance. That does not mean the Test team and the ODI squad would be neglected. Nevertheless, after the two recent T20 tournaments, the other being Afghanistan, it is a proper time to do a post-mortem of the unit, its individuals and its balance. This is imperative!
The fielding of our team within the 30-metre circle is slack. It seems that they’re standing too deep, hence, the opposing batsmen take their ones and rotate the strike quite easily. When WI are batting, singles in that circle are dried up. That is one of the reasons there are too many dot balls in our innings and a lack of rotation of strike. Observe our opponents when in the field: they are cat-like, moving in quickly. Taking singles is the key to the foundation of large totals. Bowlers dislike bowling to separate batsmen during a six-ball over; batsmen have different styles, strengths etc.
Our present individual performances are not consistently productive in batting or bowling, so there is room for advancement in these disciplines.
Let’s have a look at a few players. Brandon King batted so beautifully in the Caribbean Premier League that his ability warranted a selection on the team to play in the T20s. But he has been a failure. The coach has the responsibility to build back his confidence.
Evin Lewis has improved in his shot selection, which is a vital asset in the T20. He is approaching his innings with more composure – a good sign. The top order must be aware of the value of wickets in hand and not give in to the temptation to take absurd risks in the first six overs, when only two fieldsmen are allowed outside of the circle. There are many runs to be scored later on, but one has to be at the crease and not in the pavilion to be able to do so.
Shimron Hetmyer is a disappointment. He showed so much promise as a left-handed stroke-maker a couple of years ago, I can’t believe he’s become such a swiper of the ball at present. Right after he won a contract to the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2018, his run-scoring abilities froze, and he was a failure in the IPL.
What is more, he has not been showing the glowing style of lovely strokes he promised. Although he has shown flashes of brilliance, he manages to dismiss himself mostly with ill-chosen shots.
With his height and medium-paced deliveries, Jason Holder should be more accurate in his bowling. A tearaway fast bowler could be forgiven for a couple of wayward balls in an over and hopefully his speed would compensate; however, the medium-paced bowler does not have that luxury and in a T20 game line and length is everything. One is not attempting to get wickets, but to contain batsmen who, when tied down, could be removed while trying to up the tempo. Holder should also be finishing the innings stronger. He’s a much better player than his T20 figures show.
The bowling generally needs a lot of work.
Bowlers have to practise bowling every ball on the right length along the correct line. All the bowlers need work and the understanding of their job. Practise makes perfect and this has to be adhered to with the right approach.
It can be done. The approach and enthusiasm are already in place.