If it was Lendl Simmons in the last game, this time it was Roston Chase. The perfect contradiction of two stereotypical West Indian innings created a caricature from a distance that you would be compelled to think that if this team is the defending champions at all.
Well, this West Indian team is perhaps one of the best ever in terms of pure talent. Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, and DJ Bravo. Imagine the depth. One is better than the other. If you would leave the side to win a championship in any T20 competition, chances are they would take down the whole thing without even breaking a sweat.
However, with success comes imperfection and despite 'nerding' every single chapter of this format, Windies are prone to commit their share of errors. Remember the 2014 World T20 game against India? The game where they traded their six-hitting ability for singles and doubles, only to be thrashed by the Indians in an epic fashion. Sixes are the ultimate currency for them and thus it is not a surprise that they started the 2021 T20 World Cup campaign with two embarrassing losses and could have been the first team to be eliminated from their group. That they managed to hold on was as much down to their late comeback as it is about Bangladesh’s failure to understand the basic intricacies of the format.
“I think it is the downfall of West Indies’ T20 era. Age and experience are one thing but they can get highlighted if you are not winning. I’m not saying that this West Indies team is past it and they are like Pakistan, they could bounce back anytime,” former England spinner Graeme Swann told Cricket.com in a pre-match conversation.
“But they have had two really really weak performances. If you look at their team, the team is wriggled with top-class batsmen from the IPL but they are just not performing. Maybe it is the end of their era. Not sure if it is their T20 World Cup, to be honest,” he added.
And Swann was bang on with his viewpoint and Windies’ third encounter in the World Cup pretty much confirmed the assertion. Barring them hitting more sixes than fours (seven sixes to five fours) in their total of 142, not a lot of things had gone their way as far as batting was concerned. Chase, who had scored 446 runs at an average of 49.6 and strike rate of 144.3 to emerge as the highest run-scorer in the CPL 2021, scrapped his way to score 39 off 46 balls while Gayle and Lewis struck at 40.00 and 66.67 respectively. Only three batters scored more than run a ball, on a track, despite being tricky, was surely not unplayable.
"Definitely a tactical move batting down. Our batting hasn't clicked so far and we have been chopping and changing. I felt like I had to raise my hand up and perform for the team after Polly left," Pooran said in the presentation ceremony after the match.
As much as chasing has become a predictable way of approaching things in the shortest format of the game, it was games like these that determines the success story. And while the coaching staff would be mad at how Windies batters, it was their bowlers who scripted a path to success in the remainder of the competition.
It was also ironic that Windies had left Jason Holder out of the squad despite the former skipper proving time and again that he could be the game-changer for them on slow and low decks. While his five-ball 15 helped the Windies crack to a decent total at the end, he dismissed Mohammad Naim inside in the powerplay and eventually took a composed catch at long-on to technically bury Bangladesh’s campaign. On days like this, it seems really weird he was an injury replacement and not a first-squad member.
"Yeah, you could sit back in hindsight and say a few things. The last over was obviously very important for our momentum. We were able to get three 6s, as I said, which helped us get up to a respectable total. I think with our bowling attack we could defend that, and it proved to be enough. So credit to our batters for getting us up to 140, and then also credit to the way we stuck at it and held our nerve,” Holder later said in the post-match press conference.
Bangladesh would be crushing themselves for the way they have gone about their things. The inherent denial to produce quality pitches in the home matches and not adopting modern power-hitting might have yielded them some short-term benefits like winning home series, but hasn’t helped their cause in the overseas conditions. This T20 World Cup will perhaps drive home the very basic need to internalize and process what it takes to be a good T20 side.
Windies, meanwhile, will be eager to use this encounter as a proper prelude to stage a comeback that seemed way off a few hours ago. Australia and England have taken a giant stride in order to book their berths in the semi-final and with Sri Lanka playing in Sharjah, you can discount them at your own peril. Then there is South Africa, now bolstered by the return of Quinton de Kock. The group is spicer than ever and the side, who will be less flawed in the next week or so, will have a bigger piece of the pie.