The West Indies T20 team is an attitude. An attitude of fearlessness, chutzpah, excitement and something that flocks the cricket grounds for unbeatable entertainment. They are quintessentially the ‘rock and roll’ of world cricket.
They win championships, they dance, they hit big shots, they provide drama, substance, flair, collapses and are everything that a blockbuster box-office movie looks like. But above all, they are a bunch of quality cricketers who nail the format than any other country, even with a plethora of freelancers. And if there’s one thing that has played a differentiator for them to end up with two T20 World Cup wins, more than any other side, it has been their fiery batting, with each and everyone in their line-up good enough to win games on his day.
But as we head towards the T20 World Cup, right in this ongoing series against South Africa, their displays have made people go from “Oh wow, they are at it again, best batting line-up in the world” to “Are they as good as everyone thinks of them any longer?” And it’s not just about these last two games and defeats against the Saffers. Their batting displays have been questionable especially since the New Zealand tour, which took place in November last year. Now, it’s been three series in a row, when the side’s batting has turned inconsistent. Let’s take a look at how the Windies batters have fared since the NZ T20Is:
As we can see, barring Andre Fletcher, no one has been able to even average 30 or more. In the period, West Indies’ batting has averaged a poor 19.60, the second-worst for any side among the top ten nations in T20 internationals. Horrendous by champion standards, eh? Even their strike-rate has been 130.09, which makes up for the third-worst in the world. West Indies have invariably suffered collapses, while the batters who have got starts have not been able to convert.
Out of eight games, their batting has undergone some sort of collapse in six of them. When it comes to conversion, there have been only two half-centurions from West Indies in the period, which is again the lowest for any side.
Now, we shall dig a little deeper and see how they have done in different phases and how they fare against pace and spin. Let’s start with their displays in different phases of the game:
This bit of stat is pretty revealing. West Indies have done a great job in terms of the first six overs as they score 53.8 runs on average in the powerplay. Their average is also decent. However, their middle-overs performance has ‘DISASTER’ written all over it. They have the second-worst average and strike-rate among the top nations in the world. It shows how poorly the middle-order has performed for them. When it comes to death, their average is again worst in the world with the strike-rate being third-worst among all the top-nations, which is expected too if the middle-order doesn’t click.
Pollard was right in his assessment when he stated post the third game that Windies have failed to convert starts and have played a lot of dots. Three middle-order players have played five or more games in the period – Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran and Jason Holder – and they have played a lot of dots in overs between 7-15 (middle-phase). Pollard’s dot-ball percentage has been 49.2%, which rises to 61.9% this year. While Nicholas Pooran and Jason Holder have faced 40.7% and 39.1% dot-deliveries respectively. One common aspect between the top-five run-getters in the middle-overs phase in the time-period – Glenn Phillips (31.6%), Mohammed Rizwan (26.1%), Dawid Malan (29.9%), Devon Conway (26.4%), and Babar Azam (24.2%) – has been their lower dot-ball percentage. No wonder the West Indies middle-order has suffered.
Let’s now take a look at how the Caribbean side have fared against pace and spin to see if there is any disparity or any specific weakness with the side.
Now, this is what you call an eye-opener. The biggest issue hovering around the batting line-up has been their inability against spin as we see the disparity between the numbers against both disciplines. To top that, and classify further, wrist-spin has been the biggest vulnerability for the Pollard-led side. Against wrist-spin of any kind, they have accumulated 156 runs off 220 balls, lost 20 wickets, averaged 7.80 with a strike-rate of 70.91, which is simply unacceptable, to cut it short.
Lack of continuity hurting Windies
One of the possible reasons that has resulted in such mediocre displays could be a lack of continuity. As many as nine players have featured in the middle-order in eight games thus far. And it can be unsettling. The players haven’t played together for a long time and suddenly, when they start rubbing shoulders, it can be perplexing to play the role assigned by the team management and for everything to fall in sync together. For instance, Andre Russell is playing for the first time in T20 internationals in over a year while the third game against the Proteas was Shimron Hetmyer’s first T20I in 2021.
West Indies have also lacked clear-cut game plans and at times have gone on either side of the extremes – my way or the highway. They have got these crazy 50-plus starts well inside four overs to only lose wickets in a bunch later. Also, the batters have failed to take responsibility to consolidate starts or to take the side past the finishing line, which has often resulted in defeats.
The poor run of Chris Gayle at No.3 has also started to hurt the side. Kieron Pollard has been shouldering the responsibility of the whole middle-order, which has put him under tremendous pressure. Nicholas Pooran has been a big disappointment while it remains to be seen whether Hetmyer gets into his groove or not. However, Fabian Allen has proved to be an effective lower-middle-order player. Jason Holder has also put in some decent displays. And the return of Andre Russell is also supposed to bolster their batting. But, right now, they are far off from the West Indies, which is known for ruling the roost. There are missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle that they need to fit in time if they have to get third-time lucky in the T20 World Cup.