Tonight’s match against Pakistan affords members of the West Indies team a great opportunity to bounce back from their defeat against Ireland on Monday. They definitely need a ‘pick me up’, and what better team to provide it than Pakistan.
On their best day, Pakistan can be a handful, but they are one of the most volatile teams in world cricket, capable of climbing to great heights in one breath, and capitulating to depths of despair in the other.
They lost to old enemy, India, by a convincing 76 runs in their opener, which could either be a wake up call, or put them in a mode that challenges their confidence. Their preparation, like ours, was marred by differences with their Cricket Board which made early waves with a diktat banning players from using social media websites such as Twitter.
Those superstitious among us would remember one of their players was unavailable after he claimed to have been spooked by a ghost during the night in his hotel room.
More importantly, a broken curfew by several players led to fines, and most recently a reported disagreement between several others and their fielding coach was followed by news that the latter had resigned – only for the Board to say the news was false. So there we go, sound reasons for the West Indies players to feel that they are playing a group which is quite capable of self destructing.
The Irish, of course, faced no such problems. My good friend and former teammate, Phil Simmons, certainly has them tuned up. His presence has led to a very cohesive group of players with a tremendous amount of belief. Phil has instilled an ethic that suggests it should not be long before they join the test ranks. Their positive, dynamic approach proved that teams no longer fear or respect the West Indies. A few years ago, when West Indies put 300 runs on the board, that was it, our bowlers were of the quality and class to defend it. Unfortunately, that has changed and shows the state of our cricket today.
At no point did Ireland seem intimidated. They went about the chase with such confidence and purpose, almost as if they knew that the result was a foregone conclusion.
Even when Phil’s cousin, Lendl and Darren Sammy were pulling us out of a tricky situation, Ireland never appeared to panic, and when they batted, the 300 plus they were chasing was always within their grasp.
I would like to think that the individual performances of Simmons and Sammy has said something to the other team members. Victory may well depend on how well they use those positives to create the right mood tonight. Cohesiveness and confidence are key compenents in team sport, without which success will always be difficult. The West Indies must dig deep and draw on whatever little of these attributes are left.
I still believe that in Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin and Sammy, we have the nucleus of a team capable enough to make it into the next round.
Both India and South Africa may be difficult to get past, but we can compete and beat Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and the UAE.
Three solid performances and we can have one foot inside the door. It is obvious that the gap between the countries with Test status and the Associates is closing. Despite Monday’s loss, I still think we have the experience to move on.
Pride and desire may yet dictate if we do.