Fitting end to spirited spectacle
by Wade Gibbons
There was much for which the West Indies Cricket Board could feel proud. Even if most of the batting performances were poor, the tournament as a spectacle was quite exciting. Crowds came out in their thousands in Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia to view a well co-ordinated package that was beamed via ESPN to several destinations across the globe.
A few names offered hope of greater things to come in the future. But in other instances, some regional territories left the tournament with more questions than answers related to the state of their cricket. And in one glaring instance, a selection gaffe, deliberate or otherwise, could lead to the final chapter of a career that has promised much more than it has delivered.
The good: Trinidad and Tobago, who crushed Guyana by nine wickets in the final at the Beausejour Stadium, richly deserved their hat-trick of victories. With the likes of Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, the Bravo brothers Dwayne and Darren, Lendl Simmons and Samuel Badree, this team possessed star quality from virtually number one through to eleven. A true regionalist would be elated that they are to represent the Caribbean in the Champions League later in the year.
From what was seen from the other teams, any other unit leaving the Caribbean would probably be the source of regional embarrassment.
And the results reflected the gap in quality where Trinidad and Tobago won all their completed matches and did so with consummate ease. Kudos must go to the team’s captain Denesh Ramdin, Trinidadian selectors and management.
Though not used automatically by the West Indies in T20 competitions, tournament MVP Darren Bravo showed that he is a force with which to reckon in this format and was the champions’ most prolific batsman with 225 runs in six innings, an average of 75 and a strike rate of 151.
Shannon Gabriel has returned from injury with a vengeance. He was easily the fastest bowler in the competition, unsettling batsmen with searing pace and steep bounce. Most significant was Gabriel’s accuracy and he took five wickets at fewer than six runs per over. The future for him and the West Indies bodes well.
Ronsford Beaton, 20, oozed promise with every over he bowled for Guyana. Pacy, accurate, and an obvious thinker, the former West Indies Under-19 quick had 7 wickets in five matches at an economy rate of 6.72 and what stood out, at such a tender age, was his composure under pressure. Commentators gushed over him and with good reason.
Barbadian Tino Best’s renaissance in all forms of the game continued. He finished with the most wickets in the tournament, 10 in six matches at an economy rate of 6.16 and always looked threatening with ball in hand.
Carlos Brathwaite also enhanced his bowling stock and was arguably Barbados’ best bowler, snaring nine wickets in six matches at the exceptional economy rate of 4.66. His batting did not fire but in a line-up that performed poorly, he never had a defined role.
Guyana’s Chris Barnwell with two half-centuries in 245 runs at an average of 35 and a strike rate of 133 in eight matches, along with six wickets at an economy rate of 5.54, would once again have pricked the interest of selectors for this format. His 88 against Jamaica in the virtual semi-final was one of the innings of the tournament.
After a poor showing in Bangladesh and the Big Bash, Chris Gayle clouted 85 and 122 in his only two knocks to light up the competition and give himself adequate preparation for his return Down Under. If there is a better batsman in this format, he is surely Gayle’s clone.
The bad: Something has gone dreadfully wrong in the Leeward Islands. For a grouping that has produced the likes of Andy Roberts, Richie Richardson, Sir Vivian Richards, Curtley Ambrose, Jim Allen and a host of others, their performances over the past three years across all formats are a worry.
Their main batsmen in the tournament, Kieran Powell and Chesney Hughes, were major disappointments. Alarm bells would have been sounded from the very start when Sylvester Joseph could walk back into the team as captain, after an approximate four-year hiatus from a batting career that does not average above 32 in any format of the game. It was a desperation move that paid few dividends.
Ryan Hinds’ decline continued. Senior batsmen with Test experience should look like senior batsmen with Test experience. He scratched around for 20 runs in four innings and looked like a lost boy on a burning deck who cannot swim. He should not be faulted, though.
That blame rested strictly with Barbados’ selection panel which has found choosing players for specific formats as difficult as finding American flags on Government buildings in Tehran. That they considered Shamarh Brooks, who no longer bowls, and some would argue also no longer bats, a Twenty20 prospect, exemplified their muddled reasoning.
There were a number of crucial umpiring howlers. In the absence of a review system, these decisions were match-altering and in the instance of the Combined Campuses and Colleges versus Guyana, cost the former the match. Promising fast bowler Jason Holder’s heel landed behind the crease in the last over of that game, then dragged across the line and a no-ball was erroneously called. The extra delivery contributed to CCC’s defeat in a tight run-chase.
A legitimate ball by part-time medium pacer Johnson Charles against Guyana in St. Lucia was “wided” by the umpire though it was bowled within the regulatory line. That faulty call helped to deny the Windward Islands’ advancement to meet Jamaica in the play-off. Windward Island’s captain Darren Sammy handled the emotional scenario with commendable aplomb.
Guyana skipper Veerasammy Permaul led his team to the final almost anonymously. He had a horrific competition with the ball conceding a staggering 199 runs in 19.3 overs, while taking a mere two wickets at the ceiling economy rate of 10.20. He was cannon fodder for batsmen throughout.
Having played twice for the West Indies, Jamaica’s Nkrumah Bonner would have been hoping to impress regional selectors and the wider global audience. Instead, he frustrated all and sundry with a disappointing series, tallying a paltry 72 runs in seven innings.
The ugly: Ramnaresh Sarwan’s batting. The prodigal son returned to the fold and proceeded to score 61 runs in eight innings, with a highest score of 19 and at the geriatric strike rate of 76.25. Never known for his alacrity, Sarwan also looked a liability in the outfield.
His was the almost inevitable consequence of being away from international cricket for about two years while plying his trade with Leicestershire on the English county circuit. He had a reasonable 2012 in England but that is a considerable step down from international cricket.Following his tournament failures it was a surprise he was rewarded with a recall to Australia. Sarwan has never done well in Australia and on those bouncy tracks against the Aussies pace attack he could be in for a torrid time.
The Australian selectors recently reintegrated Phil Hughes into their side but were smart enough to do so against the Sri Lankans rather than expose him to South Africa’s pace attack. Perhaps, the selectors could have done Sarwan a similar favour by reintegrating him against the less taxing Zimbabweans in a few weeks time.The ugly side of Dwayne Smith’s cricket returned. Indecisive and cross-batted stroke-play resulted in 48 runs in six innings, with one of these producing 36 runs.
While his bowling thrived, his captaincy was uninspiring where he was part of dubious selections and peculiar batting orders, culminating in a decision to drop himself down the order where he elected to lead from behind.
At age 29, with that number being his best batting average across all three formats of the game, and after nine years of international cricket, Smith’s game appears to be suffering from arrested development.
He, like a number of others, made no progress during the Caribbean Twenty20. There will be further opportunities in the months ahead to make amends.