West Indies' golden era gets a harsh reality check

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04 Nov 2021 | 07:40 PM
authorSamarnath Soory

West Indies' golden era gets a harsh reality check

When a big performance was needed, star-studded West Indies self-destructed in spectacular fashion

During Sri Lanka’s first innings at the Sheikh Zayad Stadium in Abu Dhabi, commentator Alan Wilkins put across a question to former West Indies captain Darren Sammy on how likes of Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Ravi Rampaul and Sammy himself were part of their 2012 title winning team and four of them are still on the pitch on Thursday.

Sammy had a poignant reply. “Either those guys have been able to keep fit better than me or that West Indies haven’t been able to develop players like that.”

Gayle, Pollard, Bravo and Rampaul have a combined experience of a staggering 1702 T20 matches. Despite having the format’s know-how and two glittering men’s World T20 titles in their kitty, West Indies looked burdened by their own legacy against an inexperienced Sri Lankan side. 

On the other hand, the entire playing XI of Sri Lanka has played 807 T20s. Leading the charge were 23-year old Pathum Nissanka and 24-year old Charith Asalanka, whose brave shot-making and tireless legs left the mighty West Indies bowlers clueless and their sluggish fielders chasing shadows. The pair’s partnership of 91 that came in 61 balls had all the elements of a masterclass on a batting heaven and also brutally exposed Windies’ frailties.

They were clear in their anticipation against all the six bowlers they faced as none of them were capable of hitting the deck hard. Rampaul could’ve been able to do that had he been few years younger, but at 36, the pacer mostly relied on his lengths and variations which didn’t work out. Dwayne Bravo, a T20 demi-god in his own right, was called on multiple occasions to break the partnership, but his slow-ball strategy showed little to no effect against the pair who swung and cut with ease. 

The frustration on Bravo’s face was telling in the 18th over when he bowled three wides trying to evade Asalanka’s crafty cover-drives as Pollard walked up to his senior for a word. The strategic failure of West Indies in the World Cup can be summed up with Bravo’s performances. In the second leg of IPL 2021 in the UAE, the format’s top wicket-taker had 11 scalps from seven matches at economy of 7.9. From four matches in the ongoing tournament, Bravo has claimed just two wickets at economy of 8.4.

Pollard, clearly missing a wicket-taking bowler, himself bowled an over and kept spinners Roston Chase and Akeal Hosein down to just three overs. Chase, who is a proven performer with the ball in the Caribbean Premier League, only bowled the first over and never came back. Hosein is not a big turner of the ball and his stump-to-stump line was easy to late cut for Asalanka and Nissanka. Playing valuable cameos around their young guns were captain Dasun Shanaka and his predecessor Kusal Perera, the only squad members to play over 100 T20s. The pair added 54 runs to the scoreboard which ensured the Islanders put up a big total on board.

When it was their turn to bat, West Indies’ stalwarts never stepped up. Gayle, drafted in the opening role for the floundering Lendl Simmons, gobbled up five balls before launching Binura Fernando straight to Wanindu Hasaranga inside the circle. Russell, who just had five runs to his name so far, was totally beaten by a slow bouncer from Chamika Karunaratne.

Pollard’s decision to bat second in anticipation of dew was proven wrong in the most spectacular fashion when he was bowled for a first-ball duck against leg-spinner Hasaranga. The Lanka all-rounder brought Bravo’s short stay to an end in the similar fashion when he took his off-stump in the 17th over. 

Fighting among the ashes were Windies’ two future leaders – Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer. Pooran, who rode on early luck, was daring to swing at every short and loose ball fetched six boundaries and a six. The keeper-batter showed that he can bat at any position in the middle order with a 22-ball 40 against Bangladesh while batting at No. 7 and promoting him to No.3 proved like the only good decision the team management made on the day.

Hetmyer has always been the catalyst at the back end, which was on full display in IPL for Delhi Capitals. The 24-year old almost brought the Windies closer from a hopeless situation with his 81 not out from 54 balls. Had Pollard or Bravo emulated Perera or Shanaka from the first innings, the Windies might would’ve seen a different result.

The match was clear indication of Sri Lanka’s ascent towards a better future as they played a brand of aggressive cricket that will shape up better in the coming years. For West Indies, the smoldering embers of the golden era were well and truly extinguished. It is most certainly the last T20 World Cup for Gayle, Rampaul and Bravo while the prospect of Pollard and Russell playing in next year’s World Cup in Australia is still to be seen. “It's something we didn't see coming but we have to face reality,” Pollard’s final line in the post-match presentation summed up the team’s situation perfectly.

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West Indies vs Sri LankaICC World Twenty20, 2021West IndiesSri LankaKieron PollardChris GayleAndre RussellCharith AsalankaPathum Nissanka

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