Category: West Indies (page 1 of 16)

Mickey Arthur really knows how to retract a compliment

Even by the lofty doublespeak standards of a Test match press conference, this was an impressive effort from Mickey Arthur after Pakistan were bowled out for 123 by West Indies’ Devendra Bishoo.

“I am not going to take anything away from the way Bishoo bowled because he bowled really, really well. I thought we gave him eight soft wickets.”

One can only presume that Bishoo was incredibly unlucky with pretty much all his non-wicket-taking deliveries but then dismissed batsmen with each of his eight poor deliveries thanks to terrible shots.

Tony Cozier – the man who saw all and knew all of West Indies cricket

Cricket fans moan about commentators a lot, but in general we are well served by our sport. Tastes differ, but very few talk down to us and the majority have the capacity to offer some sort of insight when working in the right environment.

But as the world becomes smaller, even the best broadcasters are becoming more homogenous. They watch the same games, read the same articles and they know the same things about the same players. There’s a slick Dubai internationalism about it all.

Not everyone’s like that though. There are still a select few – generally from the smaller Test nations – who bring a distinct flavour of their region with them. Tony Cozier was of course one.

It is not about knowing the players. Every commentator should know the players. It is about knowing the people. When the West Indies toured, Cozier could tell you not only how a player played, but why he did so. He would know his upbringing; he would know where he learned his cricket; he would know how that player was viewed in the region.

Cozier would know the player’s background better than the player himself did. He would know the history of the club he had played for in his youth and how the island’s cricket and culture had evolved since the last great player from that same club. Some commentators tell you everything they know. It’s not that Cozier wouldn’t – he couldn’t. He could show you the relevant tip of the iceberg but you always got the sense that there was infinitely more left concealed.

In recent years Cozier seemed increasingly pissed off with the chronic ill health of West Indies cricket, but his despair never reached the point of giving up on it. It was almost as if the bouts of impotent frustration would renew his energy to look for solutions – and by the broad bat of Sobers, he had to look hard to find them.

He’d cover the latest spat between players and board, or the latest Test series defeat and you’d forgive him for being worn down by it all. But then next thing you know, he’d be full of cautious hope about Rahkeem Cornwall or someone. That is what you might accurately call irrepressible enthusiasm for the sport.

Cozier was one of the few men with an impartial overview of West Indies cricket. You’d think a man who could take a step back and see things for how they were and how problems might be resolved would be greatly valued, but this doesn’t seem to have been the case.

More than one obituary has mentioned that Cozier recently filed a lawsuit against WICB president Dave Cameron. Cameron pretty much called him a blind old man.

Blind? Tony Cozier? The man who saw all and knew all of West Indies cricket surely had the clearest vision of all.

Everyone knows that hitting four successive sixes is hard, right?

We’re just checking, only a great many people seem to be holding Ben Stokes entirely responsible for England’s defeat. Sometimes the player hitting the sixes has some sort of say in things too.

Think of it like this: if you were a primitive human and you sent one of your tribe out to take on an alien with a pointed stick, only for the alien to vaporise him with his ray gun, would it be fair to take issue with Terry’s stick-prodding technique?

Carlos Brathwaite hit four sixes on the bounce to win the World T20. With tens of thousands of people shouting at him in the ground, millions more watching at home and everything he’d worked for his entire life hinging on what he did next, it was a thick slab of brilliance.

It’s not like Brathwaite set himself for one particular shot and Stokes served it up on a trendy oblong plate garnished with fresh herbs and drizzled with some sort of balsamic jus.

The first one was angled into his pads and he picked it up and hoisted it behind square leg. The second one was again legside, near enough a yorker, and he did some sort of weird contortion and wristed it over long on. The third one was again yorkerish, this time on the stumps, and departed over long off, despite having taken what looked like a leading edge. The fourth was again legside and Brathwaite just snapped his wrists through it and plopped it into the crowd.

There were good balls and bad balls in there, but the bad ones were arguably even harder to hit for six.

The first one was a bad ball in a Test match because it would never take a wicket. A batsman could easily run it away for a single or possibly even clip it for four. It wasn’t easy to hit for six though. From that angle, into the body, it was bloody hard to hit for six. Just because it ended up over the ropes doesn’t mean it was always destined to end up there. The outcome colours our perception of what came before.

To hold Ben Stokes responsible for what Carlos Brathwaite did seems a peculiarly backwards way of looking at things to us; like blaming a pedestrian for getting hit by a drunk driver. Maybe the victim could have worn hi-vis or taken a different route, but that’s not really the point is it? The point is that the guy behind the wheel was pissed and decided to drive.

So, to recap: hitting sixes is hard.

West Indies’ 2016 World T20 win: Fortunately for them, they weren’t playing cyborgs

Ben Stokes’ coolly outmanoevred Carlos Brathwaite at the death. Had the West Indian launched his attack earlier in the match, he could have hit six sixes in an over. As it was, he was denied by winning the World T20 after just four balls. Stokes is doubtless delighted.

The desired rate

There was no required rate when England batted, but there was certainly a desired rate. Samuel Badree’s opening salvo (2-16 off four) meant that they were always behind the desired rate. A few extra risks perhaps ensued.

There’s actually a case for saying that Eoin Morgan’s golden duck in the semi-final was a better innings than his 12-ball effort in the final. Facing for a tenth of England’s innings, Morgan contributed just five runs. In some respects it’s hard to blame him being as England were 8-2 when he came in, but in other, more meaningful respects, it also wasn’t good enough. Those who followed him were forced into trying to pick up the slack.

Contrast Morgan’s innings with that of Joe Root, who calmly and seemingly effortlessly rebuilt while scoring at a rate of 150 runs per hundred balls. That’s what was needed. No, it’s not easy to do, but this is the final of a world tournament. It’s about being the best.

Singles par or swingers par?

England’s score apparently fell short of ‘par’. For most of their innings, West Indies also didn’t look like achieving such a thing. Despite this, the commentators continued talking about it, as if it were of any relevance whatsoever. Maybe if the teams were playing against some sort of generic cyborg side whose results were generated by a computer before the match, it would have made sense. But they weren’t. They were playing each other.

West Indies’ innings

There’s definitely a case for bowling your five shittest bowlers in the most high pressure matches. There is nothing harder for a professional batsman to time than loopy filth.

Then there’s the ego aspect. If you open the bowling with Joe Root, for example, there is almost an obligation to get after him lest England fiddle through a couple of economical overs. And if you’re going to play on someone’s ego, pick your target carefully. Chris Gayle did what was expected of him. Johnson Charles was a bonus.

But it wasn’t really enough. Even when it got down to 19 needed from the final over, 19 didn’t seem all that large a number – although we couldn’t really have imagined how small it would prove to be. Carlos Brathwaite produced what must rank as the most brutally clinical finish under unimaginable pressure.

Moral of the story

The best way to win Twenty20 matches is to bat slowly and patiently, building a platform, before having a great big slog at the end. Turns out England were ahead of the game all that time. And now they’re behind again.

No, the truth is there’s no secret to Twenty20. The trick, really, is to play well no matter what your strategy.

Eight things to bear in mind ahead of the World T20 final between England and the West Indies

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

You can call it a preview if you want, but it’s more of a disorderly fact-dump.

1. Windies’ spinners don’t go for owt

Samuel Badree conceded 5.68 runs an over in this tournament. Sulieman Benn’s conceded 5.78. Hell, even Chris Gayle’s banged out three overs for 17 and we thought he’d retired from bowling a year or so ago.

2. David Willey usually gets a wicket

Usually early on and while it’s usually a catch, he hits the pads of right-handers a lot. Johnson Charles should watch out. He probably will be doing though because (a) that’s his job and (b) Willey got him for a duck last time they played.

3. Darren Sammy has actually been playing

You may have missed him. He’s bowled two overs and faced 11 balls.

4. Liam Plunkett has been England’s most economical bowler

True story. He replaced Reece Topley in the team and Topley has been their least economical. Does that mean Plunkett’s way better or that the Windies’ batsmen Topley had to bowl to are way better? Well that’s why they’re playing this match – to deduce whether Liam Plunkett or Reece Topley is the better T20 bowler for England. Also for silverware.

5. Chris Gayle hasn’t made runs in a while

He made 100 not out last time these two teams met, but since then for one reason or another he’s only actually added another nine.

6. India weren’t actually all that good

The West Indies may seem terrifying to England fans after brushing India aside, but it’s worth pointing out that India weren’t actually all that good in this tournament, so of course the West Indies won. India got by with one-and-a-half batsmen and a bit of solid bowling. They got bowled out for 79 chasing 127 against New Zealand and they should have been knocked out by Bangladesh if Bangladesh hadn’t been even more hellbent on losing the game than India were.

7. England have basically never been to India before

This cannot help their cause. Hardly any of them had played an international match in India before this tournament. They don’t know how to survive there. They don’t know that on a cheap hotel menu ‘scrumble toast’ almost certainly means ‘scrambled egg on toast’. They don’t know that ‘smelinge on toast’ is… actually, we’re not sure what that was and we didn’t dare order it. We suppose there’s also a chance that England are staying in plush air-conditioned hotels rather than smelinge-on-toast kinds of establishment.

8. The final’s being played at Eden Gardens

Should probably pore through the stats to work out the implications of this. Can’t be arsed.

Virat Kohli is not a bowler, Lendl Simmons is not out, Andre Russell is not suspended

India became so utterly convinced of Virat Kohli’s Midas touch that they gave him an over with the ball. He took a wicket with his first ball. That was the point where they should probably have drawn a line under things. Instead, Kohli came back to bowl the final over with the West Indies needing eight to win.

Is wishful thinking a legitimate way to decide on bowling changes with the outcome of a World T20 semi-final at stake? Andre Russell hit a four and a six.

It has to be said, Andre Russell hit the ball very hard throughout. Watching him employ his giant muscles – which may or may not have been naturally produced (we don’t know which, because he doesn’t take dope tests) – it was easy to see how a soupcon of extra power can help make small gaps larger.  At the other end, Lendl Simmons repeatedly walked on and off the pitch after succumbing to three non-dismissals. Clearly aware that it was his day, he hit 83 somehow-not-out off 51 balls.

In addition to Kohli’s dreamlike batting and the West Indies’ crunching boundary-hitting, there was plenty of the truly entertaining stuff – you know, missed run-outs (including two off one ball), dismissals off no-balls, catches that turn out to be sixes and overthrows. Top stuff everyone. More of this kind of thing.

Sick of winning hearts, Afghanistan win a match

With West Indies needing 10 to win off four balls, Carlos Brathwaite whopped one high into the legside outfield. Najibullah Zadran sprinted, dived, took the catch, broke his neck or something when landing, but never let go of the ball.

Of course he didn’t let go. Why would he let go? His team-mates seemed largely unconcerned about his wellbeing because the main thing – the catching of the ball – had gone okay. They knew Zadran would be happy when he regained consciousness because Afghanistan were a sizeable step closer to beating one of the top sides in the World T20. That was the main thing. They all understood that compared to that a broken neck or a snapped arm or a lost knee was trivial.

Afghanistan are pretty talented – some of the spin bowling, in particular – but at heart there’s a lot to be said for simply enjoying the game of cricket and just really, really wanting to win.

If Afghanistan have a superpower, it’s that losing matches appears to give them strength. Bigger teams get downhearted when beaten. Afghanistan are still on the rise, so they sort of expect to lose and shrug it off in an instant, but then at the same time assume the defeat will make them better come their next match. At that point, they give it everything.

They look casual and the physiques of some of the players have that distinctive part-time cricketer look often seen in players from the less-established nations, but their commitment to their cause is at a level you can only attain when you’re grasping for every advantage you can get.

At one point, Mohammad Shahzad and one of his team-mates celebrated a wicket with some sort of airborne arse-bump. At another point, he threw down the stumps as if they’d assaulted his daughter.

Afghanistan really, really want it and they really, really enjoy it. They’re really, really fun to watch.

After the match, Mohammad Nabi said: “I think so we have had enough of winning the hearts of cricket fans so this time we won the match.”

Jason Roy is tinder

Not so long ago, England were claiming that they had little regard for par scores any more. Henceforth, their only target was to be ‘as many as we can get’. Maybe this is still the case, but today’s batting against the West Indies seemed initially cautious to these sometimes blurry eyes.

We had in mind a rather worrying interview with Jason Roy we read last week, in which he said: “I’ve got to realise I need to give myself time – I’m not a robot.”

It seemed unfair on robots that they shouldn’t be permitted time, but that wasn’t what really concerned us. We were more worried about Roy spending any time at all playing himself in. Jason Roy may well need to give himself time, but that is almost exactly what England don’t need.

Roy’s job is to flail from the off, because Alex Hales can’t. If Roy eats up a dozen balls making a similar number of runs, that isn’t really good enough. It’s a fifth of the innings wasted, because Hales will more often than not be doing the same. Hales has earned the right do that. That’s his way. He is the big log England are looking to ignite. In this analogy, Jason Roy is basically just tinder.

That may seem dismissive, but the truth is that this is essentially England’s strategy. They have ten batsmen, only two or three of whom are special. The rest are disposable; fast-burning kindling. A to-hell-with-the-consequences approach at the top of the order is barely even a gamble because the only consequences are to the individual – the team can easily cope with his loss.

In contrast, Chris Gayle is the West Indies’ Hales. And then some.

Gayle is Alex Hales having played hundreds more international matches and twice as much T20. He is an Alex Hales who’s faced every T20 situation and played T20 in every ground. He is an Alex Hales shot-through with experience and shorn of doubt.

Gayle knew that 183 could be chased in Mumbai. All he had to do was go out and do it.

Some of you may remember Omari Banks…

He was a West Indies off-spinner. He averaged 117 against England in 2014. Here’s his Cricinfo profile page.

As that record suggests, Omari wasn’t the greatest spinner of all time. However, somewhat miraculaously, he can now boast an even worse record – his godawful single Me & You, which makes The Lighthouse Family seem like satan-worshipping urban thrash metal hip-hop experimentalists.

Why did you give up the day job, Omari? You were pretty rubbish at it, but if the rest of us let incompetence keep us from our jobs, where would the world find itself?

Andre Russell, dope testing and cricket’s changing culture

Andre Russell has not been caught doping, but he’s been unavailable for three tests in a year. At best, this is moronic and being a moron is no defence.

Russell should face a two-year ban, but we’re interested to see what actually happens. Cricket has traditionally been pretty soft on doping, barely testing at all, but a smattering of cases in recent months – Yasir Shah, Kusal Perera – is perhaps a sign that this is becoming a new ‘thing’ for the ICC.

A large proportion of the small handful of doping cases in cricket listed on Wikipedia involve recreational drugs, but the sport has an increasingly close link to gym culture where steroid use is thought to be becoming mainstream.

It’s impossible to know how many people are on the ‘roids these days but you can be certain that not every physique you see about town has been sculpted on bread and water. The chief executive of UK Anti Doping, Nicole Sapstead, recently told The Telegraph her fears that doping was becoming ‘normalised’.

In cricket, pros are given that many funny blue drinks and recovery powders that the line between food and drugs may become blurred. Christ knows, cricketers aren’t great at perceiving lines anyway, whether on the field or off it. You could understand if a few went to unacceptable lengths in trying to build the oh-so-financially-rewarding six-hitting physique that is increasingly commonplace nowadays.

This isn’t to say that Russell’s one of those, but against that backdrop, you take your tests and nip controversy in the bud. Once there’s smoke in the air, it can be impossible to blow away because you can never really provide conclusive proof that you’re not doping – just ask Chris Froome.

Cricket is of course a game of skill, but the ability to bowl the ball faster and hit the ball harder clearly has an impact. If the latter in particular is becoming increasingly important, it’s pertinent to wonder what lies in that direction.

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