Friction all around
As it turned out, West Indies scraped through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup Tournament on the strength of a few decimal places favourable in the run rate computations. We ended up in joint fourth place with rank outsiders Ireland after Jason Holder and his boys secured a 6-wicket win over United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) at Napier – that having been contingent on Ireland on the same day falling victim to Pakistan by 7 wickets at Adelaide. Rain had been predicted but all turned out to be bright, causing a blessing to be shed on the Caribbean team. A rain ruined encounter in either of those two matches would have seen elimination for West Indies.
Sent in to bat U.A.E found themselves in immediate difficulties at 46 for 6 with Holder snatching four wickets and Jermaine Taylor two, this occurring within 15 overs. Then, all of a sudden Javed and Aziz with 56 and 60 respectively began to assume control to eventually post 175 all out in the 48th over. Andre Russel latterly powered his way with 2 for 20 in support of Holder 4 for 27 and Taylor 3 for 36. The U. A.E. recovery was symptomatic of the absence in West Indies ranks of feared pace as a factor in quelling resistance among lower order batsmen void of due pedigree.
Johnson Charles opened with Dwayne Smith in the absence of Chris Gayle suffering from lower back issues and went on to suggest he might be asked to continue in that position as he hit a resolute 55 emphasising the persistent run of poor scores by Smith alongside the less than consistent Gayle at a time when Marlon Samuels has been finding miserable methods of his own dismissal. Johnathan Carter proved himself highly reliable with 50 to remain undefeated with Ramdin 33, to end proceedings in the 31st over.
The other critical match at Adelaide, Ireland elected to bat first but a century by Will Porterfield, 107, was not enough to get higher than 237 against a tight Pakistan attack. In reply Sarfraz climbed painfully in the latter stages to 101 not out to register Pakistan's first century in the tournament. He was supported by a positive 63 by Shehzad securing a 7-wicket victory.
In this Group "B" India finished undefeated, followed by South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies. Group "A" ended with New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in that order. In the fourth of the semi-final matches West Indies face up to New Zealand who have not splashed any really huge totals but have displayed great consistency among a number of their batsmen, sufficient to allow the sharp cutting edge of their pacemen to demolish opposing sides. On top of this, the Kiwis are fortunate in having Daniel Vettori to prize out unsuspecting victims with his highly experienced left arm spinners.
A span of a full week before their encounter with New Zealand might allow West Indies to tighten the nuts and bolts in their machinery. However, shades of a propensity to self destruct have loomed, none more so than an apparent friction between Holder and former captain Darren Sammy. The latter was taken off by Holder after he had bowled a single over at a cost of 3 runs against U.A.E causing what appeared to be resentment and a measure of sulking.
Noticeably, Sammy was banished to remote areas of the field away from immediate contact with the in-field positions where he has generally provided supportive advice to the inexperienced Holder. It could be that Holder had come by the conclusion that Sammy had not put his all into an attempted catch falling just short at slip which would have earned a 7th wicket completely obliterate U.A.E chances earlier in their recovery process.
Another element of conjecture arises somewhat unfavourably in wake of just concluded elections to the West Indies executive board. The results returned to office the leadership of Dave Cameron, ostensibly at extreme loggerheads with a sizeable portion of the players following the infamous withdrawal from last year's tour of India – in respect of which damages to the tune of $42 million (U.S) have been posted against West Indies.
Many are of the view nothing happens these days in West Indies cricket without upheavals making themselves part of the general scene. It is a case of a not so frictionless world for the Caribbean. How well will our quarter-final fare against New Zealand? Anyone's guess is fully legitimate. Could be that the preponderance of pace in New Zealand's ranks may stimulate an awakening in the Caribbean batting psyche. Also, there are possibilities of previous long standing dominance over the Kiwi's could project a throwback to favourable outcome against a side now due to put a bad foot forward according to the law of averages. Maybe wishful thinking but West Indies continue to pose an enigma.