Who doesn’t like a win?
Who wants to lose anyway? But, if you were to simply scroll past the form of the Windies in 2018, who just beat Bangladesh in the T20s, it would appear no one has shown remarkable consistency in losing games quite as they have.
In a sport that demands consistency at the international stage if one’s to be judged as ‘excellent’, the West Indies, where 2018 form guide stands, have excelled at being utterly average.
They began their T20 season this year by continuing their New Zealand tour, contesting in the shortest format after their Test hammering. They’d be blanked out. They found themselves represented in an utterly underwhelming squad that took to a heart-warming Pakistan that welcomed, cheered, and even thanked them for visiting their land but one wasn’t sure whether the positivism was responded to as the side was whitewashed.
Later, as the scene shifted to the Caribbean, the Windies, playing if not really contesting, found a way to make Bangladesh walk over them in another T20 series loss with the exception of the series opener at St. Kitts where they won, somehow. They’d be invited to India later and at the back of a Test rout, followed by a closely-fought ODI series where it did seem, they stood an outside chance to win, they’d ensure that their version of consistency would bear its own taste, must it be said of bitter disappointment as an ODI series loss would be followed by a decimation in T20s.
And yet, when it seemed, there could be no more losses possibly conceivable in a format where the West Indies have played like kings, if at all, in the past, they nearly gave Bangladesh a chance post shifting their temporary sub-continental residence from Kohli-land into the lair of Shakib.
But we know, the Almighty is not always unkind- is he?
The subliminal power, the kinds the West Indian fan has sensed in Lara when he broke free in the past as if freeing the bondaged through his batting- is known to persist with those who try.
So when it came to making something out of one last chance, against Bangladesh, in T20s, an occasion that didn’t seem to favor West Indians at all- Holder out of the squad, Ramdin not in sight, the usual big stars missing as per normal, Gayle, Narine and an underperforming Pollard- a young side accepted the challenge.
We saw what happened.
We saw what might have transpired had Shai Hope not featured. We also realized what this team can do with an Evin Lewis in it.
We missed Shimron Hetmyer even as he featured in all three games but ever so briefly on the wicket, leaving us in daze and confusion about the ‘what might’ given his furious ODI form all along.
We relished Oshane Thomas and we finally saw Keemo Paul coming into his own, having shown starting the series against Pakistan, what he was capable of.
Above all, we saw, apart from the abominable theatrics of umpiring blunders- how else are you going to describe whatever the ‘no balls’ – what a usually underperforming side (but also one that could really use a passionate leader in Carlos Brathwaite return to playing the watchful all-rounder role to perfection) can do.
Yet, as one bids goodbye to 2018, a year where the West Indies have lost every T20 series barring the just-witnessed final curtain call, what is your take on this side?
While on the one hand, it gladdens one to the point of ultimate elevation, in doing a rewind to the throwback to the 2016 World T20 triumph, it also appears that a highly talented side could do well with filling in the blanks that stare it blankly.
Where are the big partnerships missing?
- Where are the scores nearing 200 gone, rather was a 200-total achieved this year?
- How often have opening partnerships done the bulk of the scoring, an aspect that still counts in T20s?
- Having the said the above, the questions do not merely end having exposed the ailments in the batting department; what have the spinners achieved this year?
To make a sense of the above, it also makes sense to table pithily all that the Windies batsmen came close to answering through the mighty power of the bat, yet leaving a lot to be desired.
While not a single 200-run scorecard was put forth by a team renowned for power hitting as the highest team total of 181-3 was achieved at Chennai (an effort that yielded a defeat for tourists), it is also worthwhile to share that massive 100 meter plus sixes were struck this year.
For starters, the returning Andre Russell would waste no time in plodding 102 and 103-meter sixes in the dazzling night skies of Lauderdale. Evin Lewis, the man who looks up to Gayle but one who’s also raising doubts about his future availability for Windies, struck 2018’s tallest six: that 107-meter monster at the Sher-e-Bangla when he lifted Saifuddin over deep mid-wicket.
While much of 2018 has been about the side searching for a steady opening pair, the likes of Chadwick Walton no longer seeming fit in the current scheme with the possibility of a familiar formerly figure- Johnson Charles- returning seemingly slim, it appears, in Shai Hope half of that problem has been solved.
If there’s been a batsman who completely turned his form on its head by sheer drive, having been unsure and lackluster in the Caribbean summer vs Lankans and Bangladeshis to being a run-hammerer, then it’s Shai Hope.
How often does the game evidence a cricketer living up to his name, anyway? While Hetmyer’s game excites maniacally, it also snubs the fan of witnessing a lasting riot when each time the batsman self-manufactures his demise as seen against Bangladesh, of late.
In Keemo Paul and Oshane Thomas, there’s a mighty promise of examining West Indies from the perspective of what it can still achieve vis-a-vis all it could’ve, had talents of their repute arrived in the dull phases as seen in 2013-14 seasons earlier.
Above all of this, that their bench-strength is every bit powerful as an arsenal tapered with gunpowder and seemingly unlimited ammo can be understood courtesy names that excel in shorter formats anyways, such as Kesrick Williams.
Throw in an in-form Darren Bravo in there, along with the might of Gayle and we all know this is the strongest team, at least on paper- is it not?
The question, however, remains whether the West Indies, not your greatest adjectives of the phrase consistency can take the just-concluded T20 win in Bangladesh as a foundation to build something on for 2019? But T20s shouldn’t worry them much anyways for it is the limited overs format, which will warrant all their attention.
In the end, they’d love to remember that 2019 would always be about the ODI World Cup. Can their infrequent but invaluable wins- in case one forgot- against India, Bangladesh, and others in 2018 account to something for 2019? For starters, the often-sloppy Windies have done one thing well: ending the year holding on to the last hurrah!