Can The Waning West Indies Bounce Back?

The once almighty West Indies, who used to strike fear into opponents before a ball was bowled from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, have become the laughing stock in the sport that they used to dominate.

Their heaviest-ever Test defeat, beaten by Australia by 419 runs at the Adelaide Oval in just four days, has left serious question marks hovering over what’s gone so terribly wrong.

The huge gulf between Australia and the tourists leaves Cricket West Indies (CWI) desperately searching for answers to stop the recent rot. There’s no simple solution, like pressing the reset button, the fact of the matter is that they don’t believe in themselves.

Australia waltzed past the Windies to use the pair of Tests as a warm-up for December’s visit of South Africa for a mouth-watering trio of clashes along the east coast.

The Aussies will be eager to maintain their winning momentum. Their showcase of the series will be the traditional Boxing Day Test at the iconic MCG in Melbourne, sandwiched between a pair of matches at the Gabba in Brisbane and the grand finale at the SCG in Sydney.

South Africa last competed on Australian soil in a Test series six years ago, en route to a 2-1 success, when they whittled out the hosts for just 85 on a green wicket at Hobart. A major shake-up followed and now Australia are ranked no.1 in the Test arena. 

This time Australia are highly unlikely to be outplayed by the tourists. Sportsbooks, such as, are expecting the hosts to wrap up the series against South Africa – but not as easily as their demolition job of the West Indies.

Nothing can mask the fact that the woeful Windies are easy prey in all cricket formats. They have recently been shambolic overall in all departments with poor fielding, batting and bowling. Arguably it was the worst ever Caribbean Test team to visit Australian shores. 

The Windies are a creaky, ageing team that are in urgent need of bringing in fresh faces. In each match, only a handful of players have lived up to their billing with the bat while the bowlers have failed big time.

At the T20 World Cup it was a debacle for the Windies, stunned by Ireland and they collapsed from 58-2 to 116 all out against Scotland. That appeared to be the lowest-ever ebb for the Caribbean collection of players, until things got worse when they were mauled by Australia in a one-sided two-Test series.

CWI needs to make the sport an attractive proposition to both watch and play. This year’s visit of England for the nail-biting tour across the Caribbean saw far more away supporters than those willing on the West Indies.

The introduction of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) is great for television audiences, but brings the same players season after season. As the CPL is franchise-based then there needs to be another tournament to tantalise fans and potentially unearth new talents. With no overseas players in the Caribbean T20, which ran from 2010-13, this was the perfect opportunity for up-and-coming players to catch the eye.

Small grounds across the Caribbean means that when the Windies host they can easily clear the ropes and hit shots over fielders at extra cover and mid-wicket.

Yet their abject failure to adapt, and create angles to push for a run or two, on their travels has shown that the Windies need to up their game and tactics.

The West Indies’s troubles are usually when they send out patched-up sides, which ultimately means they field a string of individual batters rather than work collectively as a batting unit.

CWI constantly shuffles their pack, leaving the Caribbean team absent of sheer power-hitting ability as well as experienced household names.

Unable to address both their batting frailties, they have recently been suffering cheap early wickets despite naming a strong batting line-up. Yet their bowling, apart from a spirited display by Antiguan pacer Alzarri Joseph who nabbed five wickets in two innings in the 2nd Test against Australia, has been criminal and severely lacking any credibility.

Opponents simply hit cruise control to steam past the Windies nowadays, to make a mockery of the team that inflicts humiliation and dents self-confidence.

There was never any question as to whether the tourists would bag their first Test success in Australia since 1997, despite arriving Down Under unbeaten in their previous five Tests. It’s no use just looking good, players have to perform at the top level.

This agony will only stop when the sorry-looking Windies can dramatically improve things. A shake-up is needed before their limited talent tackles tours of Zimbabwe and South Africa in early 2023, with more fight from individuals urgently required.

Going forward they can  only succeed if they work as a unit and show a genuine hunger to win.