Wed | Oct 18, 2017

That defeat by Ireland

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Ireland's John Mooney (left) and Niall O'Brien celebrating their win over the West Indies.

When the cricket World Cup started just over one week ago, the West Indies, despite the hopes, the dreams of their most ardent supporters that they could win it, the odds were against them doing so.

The betting odds suggested that the former champions would not win it, and that they probably would not even make it past the first round, even though there are seven teams in that round, even though four would go through, and that among the seven, were one ranked way below the West Indies and two from the second rung of cricket.

The one team below the West Indies was Zimbabwe, the two associate teams were Ireland and United Arab Emirates, and those were the three teams expected to miss the quarter-finals.

The fancied four, or the anointed four, were expected to be South Africa, India, Pakistan, and the West Indies.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray, however, and the West Indies were soundly beaten by Ireland by four wickets with 4.1 overs to spare, and that after batting second and after plundering 307 in 45.5 overs.

To the world, especially to most West Indians, that was an upset, a surprise or a shock. To Warren Deutron, however, the CEO of Ireland's cricket, speaking a few days before the World Cup started, it was not.

"Anything less than a quarter-final spot would be a disappointment for Ireland", he said.

"I don't see it as an upset. I don't like the words minnows, associates and upsets," said captain William Porter after the event, "We came to win."

And from their West Indian coach, Phil Simmons, uncle of Lendl Simmons, came, "It's the best I've seen the guys play so far."

Whatever it was, even taking into account their recent and more recent performances around the world, and the narrow escape of South Africa versus Zimbabwe, New Zealand versus Scotland, and the UAE versus Zimbabwe, it was disappointing and embarrassing.

It certainly has been the most embarrassing performance since 1969, when the Irish dismissed a West Indian team for 25 in their first innings of a drawn match, and since Kenya defeated the West Indies in the 1996 World Cup.

And the ease with which Ireland delivered the blow was impressive.

The West Indies, sent to bat, were 87 for five on a perfect pitch in a lovely little ground in New Zealand, through the brilliant batting of Lendl Simmons and Darren Sammy, 102 and 89, they recovered to 304 for seven, and then Ireland went to town.

Porterfield and Paul Sterling set the pace with a sizzling opening stand of 71, and after Porterfield was dismissed in the 14th over, Sterling, Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien dominated the proceedings with crisp, authentic and brilliant stroke play while scoring 92, 84, and 79 not out and cruising to 273 for two for a comfortable victory.

The West Indies, playing a quartet of pacers, in comparison to Ireland's use of spin bowlers, paid the price as their pacers - Kemar Roach, Jason Holder, Jerome Taylor, and Sammy - were taken to the cleaners with the batsmen cutting, hooking and pulling with disdain.

It was such that Ian Bishop, the former West Indian pacer, who was doing commentary at the time, was moved to comment: "It is like taking candies from the hands of a baby," and later on, as Ireland stormed to victory, "Boundaries are flying fast here at Saxon Oval."

Whatever it was, whether it was a surprise, an upset, or a shocker, or whether it was an indication of the relative strength of the teams, it was an embarrassment, especially that the West Indies, apparently living in the past, selected four pacers and not one slow bowler, and during action, to see Darren Bravo committing the cardinal sin of running himself out after watching the ball, to see Denesh Ramdin batting ahead of Simmons, and to see Chris Gayle bowling his long-forgotten off-spin as the West Indies desperately looked for help.

And remembering my experiences of the Irish, it was particularly embarrassing to me.

I remember while covering the West Indies tour to England in 1976, at the start of the West Indies march to glory, I went to Dublin for the tour match against Ireland, and when I got to the ground on the morning of the match, I was asked to join the guys on radio for the pre-lunch session.

"Why," I asked?

"We need someone to explain to the listeners what is meant if and when we talk about things like byes and no-balls, leg byes and leg before wickets," was the reply.

 

proud of work

 

Later that evening, I went downstairs to dinner, I saw two West Indians, Vanburn Holder - who earlier in the day had taken six Irish wickets - and Bernard Julien at a table, and I joined them.

Shortly afterwards, a middle-aged waiter came across, and as he took the orders, he asked us where were we from.

"From the West Indies," Holder replied with a smile, probably proud of his morning's work.

"So what are you doing here?" asked the waiter.

"Playing cricket," replied Holder.

"Cricket, cricket here in Ireland," asked the astonished waiter.

That was 39 years ago, and although Ireland defeated Pakistan at Sabina Park in the 2007 World Cup, and England in Bangalore in the 2011 World Cup, I still remember that evening in the Gretna Green Hotel and the waiter's words; "Cricket, cricket in Ireland?"

The West Indies are still to play Pakistan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, India, and the UAE, and they may make it through. But if they did not beat Pakistan on Saturday (Friday might local time), the loss to Ireland will be remembered for a long, long time, probably for ever, more so if they fail to reach the quarter-finals, which now seems, thanks to Ireland, a forlorn hope, a distant dream.

Editor's note: Tony Becca's column was written before the West Indies beat Pakistan on Friday night.