The consequences of a series of ill-advised decisions

Tue, Aug 27, '19



India continued their stranglehold over the West Indies in Antigua on Sunday, as the visitors completed a dominant 318-run win, picking up their first points of the ICC World Test Championships. In the eyes of the West Indies, however, this should go down as a missed opportunity, as it was a series of unfounded decisions—which led to the Caribbean side chasing a target of 419 in the 2nd innings.

On the eve of the first Test of the two-match MyTeam11 series, news broke that all-rounder Keemo Paul—who was struggling with an ankle injury—would be replaced in the squad by fast-bowler Miguel Cummins.

As was anticipated, there was indeed blowback from England’s defeat at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in January of this year; having been harshly penalized for a “below average” pitch by the ICC, the attempt to correct whatever ‘mistakes’ were made, led to home advantage being non-existent for Holder’s men when WINDIES showed up to find the pitch a little “less green” than they would have preferred.

Having said that, can we then place, at the curators’ feet, the decision from the home side to persist with four seamers after assessing the conditions in the absence of Paul—the fourth seamer being Miguel Cummins? What would you say if I told you that Cummins displayed precisely the same shortcomings as was found in his game last year?

The justification for this decision being that the formula of four seamers has brought the West Indies success in recent times. Yet the very definition of a formula will tell you that it constitutes all the ingredients for achieving a specific goal. In this instance, solely focusing on quantity, the West Indies forfeited acknowledgement of the quality of the four seamers customarily in their XI during this success, as well as the conditions which facilitated said. Yet we speak of the inability of our batsmen to adapt to changing conditions, what about the decision-makers?

Which brings us to the issue of who has final say on playing XIs in this West Indies team. Without this explicit knowledge, neither Holder nor Reifer will ever be held fully accountable for this series of bemusing decisions as it relates to team composition on matchdays.

What Reifer cannot be held accountable for, however, is Holder’s unwillingness to pounce when the opposition is on the ropes—his lack of  killer instinct. Had Holder been a tad bit aggressive with his field placements when the Indians were struggling at 25/3 or 189/6, we would surely be singing a different melody throughout the Caribbean. Instead, by the time the Indian 1st innings drew to a close, Kohli had his feet up in the dressing room, all smiles, not a care in the world; all the worry from Day 1 erased.

Let’s just state for the record that the West Indies’ bowling attack, minus Cummins—not because he was not among the wickets, rather the sheer lack of threat he posed—restricted the number 1 ranked team in the world to less than 300, without aid from pitch or captain. WINDIES batting, on the other hand, being the team’s weak link–in addition to the loss of the orchestrator of the famous lower order that has propelled this team on too many occasions–meant the game was lost once Sharma tucked Holder behind square leg off the back foot to take the score up to 250 with three wickets remaining on Day 2.