Did the bulletin for this game today which, let’s be brutally honest, wouldn’t register too high on most cricket fan’s “must watch” list. It was, however, a fascinating game but for all the wrong reasons, for it highlighted the West Indies failings even more starkly than ever before. In my eyes, anyway.
Zimbabwe are frankly no more than a county team. I would expect every county in England to beat them at least six times out of ten, convincingly. And that’s not doing them a disservice; they aren’t very good, they’re extremely young and have scant experience to call on. Yet somehow, they managed to make West Indies look like a bunch of amateurs. All in all, in terms of standards, it was a quite dreadful game of cricket.
To make matters worse, the pitch was diabolical to bat on. Variable bounce (skidding low then taking the splice of the bat) was the main problem to affect the batsmen. That Zimbabwe even managed to reach 150 was a fine effort – they could have been bundled out for about 60 had the West Indies wanted to. Fact is, they were bored, disinterested and lacklustre. They didn’t seem to care enough to take 10 wickets; it wasn’t so much complacency, or understimation of Zimbabwe, they just didn’t look alert and refused to boss the game. They should have done this and they didn’t, and I cannot explain or reason why this is.
Instead, they sat back and waited. Zimbabwe, who have a few obviously talented batsmen, are so inexperienced that they weren’t sure how to increase the run-rate. After losing their opener Piet Rinke, they closed up and batted for time (and that’s fair enough. playing to your strengths and all that). But you’d have expected the West Indies to come at them hard; to show them who was boss; to nail throws from the boundary right above the bails; to intimidate the weaklings and say to them “Yeah. It’s tough, international cricket. You might only be 18/20/23 years old but we’re not here to have a tea party, we want to win.” But no. Nothing. Nada. Only when their captain, Terry Duffin, and Justice Chambawamba (sorry, forgotten his surname) were dismissed did the Windies wake up and realise they really ought to take the remaining wickets.
To compound the farce, they then lost five wickets during their chase. Five? What odds would you have given on them losing two, let alone five? They’re only chasing 152 for fuck’s sake! Prosper Utseya bowled very well indeed – at good pace for an off-spinner, too. Young spinners often bowl too slowly – partly due to their bodies not yet maturing fully and their tendons in their wrists not being strong enough – but this chap Utseya was excellent, really impressive and showed a lot of guts.
Utter complacency and arrogance though from the batsmen; Morton’s lazy swish in the first over was bad enough, but Ramnaresh Sarwan’s jogged-single, causing him to be run-out, was absolutely incredible. If schoolkids made such an error, they’d be dropped from the team or given 1000 lines or 100 press-ups. It said to those watching “can I really be bothered”? Tony Cozier, commentating on TV, said of the incident: “[it] epitomises the state of West Indies cricket”. It’s hard to disagree.
All in all, a rather sad state of affairs. I’m fond of West Indies cricket, very much so – and I’ve made mention of my frustration before. But today, I don’t know…somehow I feel even less enchanted with them. I know they have problems with the WICB and I know there are constant, ongoing disputes and money problems and all that crap. But they have a group of players, good players, none of whom seem able to perform consistently – even against what is effectively an amateur team comprising teenagers and early 20-year-olds.