By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published October 3, 2016
The next 12 months in West Indies cricket will be crucial to its relevance in world cricket. Can West Indies qualify automatically for the 2019 ICC ODI World Cup? Can the team improve in the Test arena?
September 30, 2017, will mark a monumental day for West Indies cricket. Next year, this time, the portrait foretelling West Indies future will be crystal clear. Will West Indies continue to sink, merely stay afloat or propel through the choppy waters of world cricket? The September 30 date next year signifies the end of the qualifying period for the 2019 ICC ODI World, which will be held in England and Wales. West Indies have already missed qualification for the other ICC ODI tournament due to be held in England and Wales next year, the ICC Champions Trophy.
By the time September 30 approaches, the foreseeable future might see West Indies Cricket Board or Cricket West Indies – as it might be called then – already with a new board president and – for sure – the appointment of a new coach. The current president, Dave Cameron, might decide to step aside when the presidential elections are due in March next year. Alternatively, he may decide to remain at the helm, as he attempts to stir the West Indian ship through the storm and against the turbulent waves.
Dave Cameron has been at the helm of West Indies cricket since March 2013 and the fans have seen few highs and many lows. One of the lowest points was in October 2014 when the players took industrial action over the implementation of the new payment packages negotiated by the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA). One of the highest highs was when West Indies men and women won the T20 World Cups on the same day in March this year. The perturbing question on the minds of the stakeholders of West Indies cricket is, will Cameron seek another term amidst discontent amongst some fans, journalists and even prime ministers with his tenure?
Cameron’s primordial goal was to see West Indies ascend to the top of world cricket. They have done so in cricket’s shortest format: Twenty20. However, the prestige and allure lie in reaching the top in Tests and, to a lesser extent, the top in ODIs. And it is there he has failed to achieve his goals. He has gone through two head coaches: Ottis Gibson, who was in charge when he came in, and Phil Simmons, who he appointed 18 months ago and has let go since.
Table 1. West Indies batting and bowling averages in the three formats of the game (Tests, ODI & T20) during specific periods from October 2004 – September 2016.
(Oct 2004 – Feb 2010)
(Feb 2010 – Aug 2014)
|Phil Simmons##(Mar 2015 – Sep 2016)||25.44||49.75||25.93||34.39||27.55||25.66|
Under Gibson, the team performance-wise showed no significant improvements in the batting. However, there were significant strides in the bowling department in all three formats. The team did well in Tests against par or sub-par teams at the time such as New Zealand and Bangladesh. However, against the superior teams, they struggled excruciatingly. And in ODIs, the results were disappointingly slapdash.
Under Simmons, West Indies showed flashes of life in Tests, however, both performance and results were beyond lacklustre. In ODIs, life emerged against superior teams, such as Australia and South Africa and in T20Is, we dominated the world.
“It would be a terrible embarrassment for West Indies to not automatically qualify (for the 2019 ICC ODI World Cup)”
By September 30 next year, West Indies will know where they stand, whether they have qualified for one of the eight automatic spots at the 2019 ICC ODI World Cup. Former West Indian wicketkeeper Jeffrey Dujon puts it, “It would be a terrible embarrassment for West Indies to not automatically qualify”. Will the former two-time champions miss the ODI World Cup?
Table 2. ICC ODI Team Rankings as of September 4, 2016
Currently, West Indies is languishing at position 8 in the table and will be in a clear battle with Pakistan, who is at 9, for the last automatic position over the next 12 months. Hopefully, in the 16 scheduled ODIs over the next 12 months, West Indies can continue to improve in the ODI format. West Indies have three ODIs against Pakistan, at least two each against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, one against Ireland and eight against England. Sri Lanka and England are ranked ahead of West Indies; hence, commendable performances against these teams will cause West Indies to rise in the rankings. Lacklustre performances against the lesser teams such as Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland will condemn them to play a qualifying tournament in Bangladesh just to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales. There are no guarantees.
In the next 12 months, West Indies will play six Tests overseas, three each against current number-one ranked team Pakistan and number-four ranked England. Series wins for West Indies would see them close the 28-point chasm in the Test rankings between them and number-six Sri Lanka and number-seven New Zealand. Who am I kidding, West Indies has won only two Tests overseas in the past 17 years against the top-7 countries? Series wins against Pakistan and England might be fairytale dreams.
Irrespective, the next 12 months will be crucial for West Indies cricket. There might be many changes in personnel at the board level, the management level and the coaching level and, as expected, at the team level. The performance on the field in Tests and ODIs will be crucial for the financial future and prestigious past of West Indies cricket.
The ship has been sinking, struggling to stay afloat. In the eyes of some, President Dave Cameron has been working hard at the wheel. Will he be able to overcome to storm and waves, and find the sunshine and dry land? Or, will he step aside and leave the job for someone else to carry on? Whether he does or not, by September 30, 2017, West Indies needs to be a stronger and better team on the field. Or else, the ship called West Indies cricket might truly capsize or wreck. Be strong West Indies fans! All hands on deck!
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
All data for this article was obtained from ESPN Cricinfo Statsguru, ICC Cricket and Zaheer’s Facts, Lies & Statistics Databases.
Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning freelance sportswriter whose articles have been published by ESPN Cricinfo, Western Mirror, The Jamaica Observer, Trinidad Express, Essentially Sports and others.
This blog article was also published in the Western Mirror on October 3, 2016.