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A disaster 3 years in the making: the warning signs were always there for WI

Last updated on 01 Jul 2023 | 09:53 PM
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A disaster 3 years in the making: the warning signs were always there for WI

Their recent ODI record suggests they’re closer to Ireland / Scotland / than they are to India / Australia

The mere thought of witnessing a World Cup without West Indies is extremely unsettling, but yes, after 48 long years, the streak…….is over.  Indeed, for the first time in cricket history, the mighty West Indies will not be featuring in an ODI World Cup.

Expectedly, the outcome has sent shockwaves across the cricket world simply because no casual fan expected the West Indies to not make it to the World Cup. Such was the faith the masses had in this side that barely any alarm bells were rung in lead-up to the qualifiers. The qualifying stage was seen as a mere formality, which is precisely why there’s currently a full-blown meltdown on social media. 

Look it up. You’ll barely come across any ‘told you so’ takes. It is because the general perception was that, despite being anything but a dominant force in 50-over cricket, the Windies still had ‘too much talent and firepower to not make it out of the qualifiers’.

All those takes, though, were merely intuition-based. Backing a big name because, well, they are a big name. 

However, this was coming. For West Indies have been atrocious in the ODI format for a very, very long time. 

Between February 1, 2020, and June 10, 2023, the Windies played a total of 38 ODIs. They only managed to win 13 of those, losing 25 encounters in total. 

Their win percentage of 34.20% was 14th out of 17 teams that had played 30 or more ODIs in this period. 

You can argue that this table is sort of unfair because, well, teams like USA, Oman and Nepal get to bolster their numbers against ‘weaker’ opposition while West Indies don’t. Fair enough.

But in this three-year period, West Indies barely competed against teams above them. 

Three bilateral series was all they won in this period (out of thirteen). Two of those victories came against Netherlands and UAE. They were, in this time-frame, whitewashed twice by Bangladesh, twice by India and once by Sri Lanka and Pakistan. 

It is clear from the table above that for years now, West Indies have not been in the same league as the other top teams. The gulf is massive. 

Two results, though, truly stand out from the pack: the double whitewash they suffered against Bangladesh and the 2-1 loss to Ireland at home. 

Not too long ago, West Indies were considered a side ‘superior’ to Bangladesh even in ODI cricket. But the two sides are not in the same league anymore (literally), the dual whitewash serving as evidence for the same.

The series loss at home to Ireland is further evidence that West Indies, despite being ranked 10th in the ODI rankings, were (and still are) in no way outrightly better than the other sides participating in the World Cup qualifiers.

Their results over a three-year period suggest they are, in the 50-over format, clearly closer to Ireland / Scotland / Netherlands than they are to India / England / Pakistan / Australia or even Bangladesh. 

Given that, them failing to qualify for the 2023 World Cup, losing to Netherlands, Zimbabwe and Scotland is not as big a shock as it seems on paper. For in reality, they lost three matches to teams that are in the same tier as them, who were simply better on the day. 

What’s shocking, however, and will immediately need to be looked into in the aftermath of this disaster, is how West Indies have managed to sink to such an unprecedented depth in the 50-over format. 

Sure enough, West Indies have not been a force to be reckoned with in ODI cricket for well over a decade now, but it was never this bad. Four years ago, they drew 2-2 at home against would-be World Champions England, a series in which they came agonizingly close to chasing down 419. 

Months later, in the 2019 World Cup in England, they bundled out Pakistan for 105 and nearly beat both Australia and New Zealand. 

Then in December, they gave India a run for their money away from home, knocking off 288 in the first ODI in Chepauk before nearly winning the series decider in Cuttack.

If an independent group reviews this debacle like how it dissected the T20 World Cup flop, what needs to be looked into is how this unit which showed so much promise four years ago, and looked like it had the potential to achieve special things, has fallen so dramatically. 

It is clearly not a case of ‘not having individuals that are good enough’. 

The side that lost to Scotland on Saturday had seven players who held an IPL contract in the 2023 edition. One individual who did not hold an IPL contract was skipper Shai Hope, but his ODI average is 50 and he has 15 hundreds under his belt. Arguably, no other team in the World Cup qualifiers — not even Sri Lanka — has as much x-factor as this West Indian squad. Yet they’re among the first sides to get knocked out. 

Could stability be a factor? 

In the last three years, West Indies have had three ODI captains: Pollard first, succeeded by Pooran and now Hope. They’ve also had three different head coaches (not counting interim) — Darren Sammy being the latest of the lot — and, to add to that, there has also been a change in chief selector in the last 18 months. 

When there are so many endless changes, how can a team possibly share a vision (from top to bottom) and sustain consistency?

What’s obvious is that an overhaul needs to happen in West Indies cricket, but it should not just be restricted to heads rolling. Those in charge — the administrators — can take the easy way out by firing coaches and sacking players (the blame game must have already begun), but what will truly bring about a shift is getting to the root of the issue and fixing the system. A reactionary, token change might help patch up things temporarily, but cricket in the Caribbean will only start to thrive again if there’s a full system reset. 

And yes, it’s not just an ODI thing. It’s a ‘cricket’ thing now, considering it was only nine months ago that West Indies failed to make it to the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup, and they finished second-to-bottom in the 2021/23 World Test Championship (WTC) cycle. 

In the lead-up to the Qualifiers, assistant coach Carl Hooper said that West Indies will ‘go a step lower’ if they fail to qualify for the showpiece event. They have now. It’s up to CWI to ensure that they pick themselves back up soon and don’t sink to further depths. 

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