Are you enjoying the T20 World Cup? I know it’s not for everyone but I’ve been keeping an eye on the scores. England have obviously started well, really well, with two decisive wins against the West Indies and Bangladesh. I’m beginning to think that we could go far.
What’s encouraging has been the performance of our bowlers. I really thought that our seam bowlers would be our Achilles heel but they’ve done brilliantly thus far. Opening up with Moeen Ali was a good idea too, as I’m sure he’s done this for Worcs in the past. We don’t have a gun opening bowler so why try to utilise one, especially in conditions that suit pace off the ball?
However, for every winner there’s inevitably a loser. And nice as it was to see England roll over the Windies for 55, I have to admit that I felt for them. West Indies cricket has been in crisis for many years now, and T20 has been the thing that’s restored some pride and (to some extent) kept the game alive in the islands. I imagine the last thing they needed was a complete trouncing.
Sadly for the Windies, they played very poorly in their second meaningful game against South Africa, too. In fact, the margin of defeat was even greater: 8 wickets rather than 6. Most of the post-game talk was understandably about Quinton de Kock’s controversial withdrawal but this obscured what was another chastening defeat.
Were these bad results particularly unexpected? Some pundits seemed to talk up the Windies chances before the tournament. There was mention of last hurrah’s for their golden T20 generation. However, just looking at the West Indies’ XI, I’m not particularly shocked that they’ve struggled so far. A lot of their bankers seem well past their best.
Personally I think this is a shame. The latter stages of the competition would be poorer for their absence. There’s just something intangibly alluring about Windies cricketers per se. Ian Bishop, who is rapidly becoming many people’s favourite commentator on the circuit, expresses this sentiment pretty well here:
“What has always summed up West Indies players? Athleticism, power, panache, flair, power-hitting, mystery spin. Think Sonny Ramhadin, Alf Valentine, Garfield Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards. These guys possessed those traits. We now have a format that suits those skills to a greater degree than ever. It is natural to West Indies cricketers.”
The problem, of course, is what happens to West Indies cricket if they can no longer shine in the shortest international form of the game? Everyone knows about their Test travails. And their ODI form hasn’t been stellar over that last decade either. So what will be the consequences for cricket in the islands if they begin to struggle in T20, too? Who will inspire their next generation of players?
The cynic in me hopes that the West Indies will continue to produce good T20 cricketers while there’s money in it. Let’s be honest, money is one of the biggest drivers for all professional sportsmen. It’s a career, after all. Bishop, who sadly, just missed out on the riches of T20 is very aware of the rewards available without resenting it:
“The market determines your earning power. I am happy to see the guys secure their financial future, because it’s happened too often that players who helped put their country on the map need assistance once they’ve retired.”
The worry, however, is that the next generation of Windies cricketers turn into what critics of the T20 circuit might call mercenaries – players happy to take the coin without holding much affection for the teams they represent. Will playing for the West Indies actually mean something or will they just prioritise franchise cricket?
So basically today’s ‘lesson’ – and apologies if it seems like I’m preaching here – is this: enjoy England’s victories over the West Indies and even Bangladesh. It’s great to see our lads doing well and enhancing their reputations. But spare a thought for the so called minnows, too.
‘Minnows’? Wow. I grew up in an era when the West Indies were the most feared team in international cricket whatever the format. It’s so sad that, thirty years later, cricket writers can describe teams from the Caribbean in such terms without raising eyebrows.