Orville Higgins | Windies’ problem is ability, not brains
With the Windies participation in the ICC World Cup now over, the post-mortems are out in full force as to why we played so badly. One school of thought is that we were playing ‘dunce’ and ‘brainless’ cricket, and this is why we performed so poorly. I will not disagree that at times our cricketers play the game with what appears to be great cerebral deficiency, but I will argue that our greatest problem is lack of SKILL as opposed to lack of THINKING.
The biggest problem that our batsmen have is the ability to rotate strike, which is to say that, by and large, they find it difficult to score reasonably quickly by taking ones and twos against quality bowling, especially in tight situations.
West Indian batsmen are great boundary hitters, that’s an established fact, but they are not as adept at scoring singles and twos as the other top teams. The reason we are better in Twenty20 (T20) Internationals, as opposed to One- Day Internationals (ODI) is for that very reason. In T20 cricket, strike rotation is less important.
One of the reasons we struggle in ODIs is because our batsmen do not have the ability to bat ‘properly’ for long periods of time. In the top ODI teams in the world, their batsmen generally have a history of doing well, either in Test cricket or first-class cricket. By and large, the best ODI batsmen in the world are decent in Test and first-class cricket too. This means that they have the ability to bat through difficult periods without resorting to high-risk attacking shots. Players like Nicholas Pooran, Evin Lewis, Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell don’t have any solid first-class careers. They all don’t know what it is like ‘to stand up and bat’ against quality bowling with patience for any length of time.
Chris Gayle, himself, has not played the longer version for five years! Our bowlers don’t have the skills that other teams have, so our batsmen don’t face quality bowling regularly in our domestic competitions, and therefore don’t develop the requisite skills to counter quality bowling.
Issue of dynamics
Their natural instinct therefore is to ‘beat ball’ when they play ODIs, since they haven’t properly developed the other dynamics to batting. It is then, really, not a matter of brains. We are asking people whose game is more suited for T20s to play ODIs. On their day, they can hurt you, but they generally lack the skill set required to bat time.
ODI cricket is not all about ‘Wham, slam, and boof.’ Sure, it calls for power hitting and aggressive stroke play, but 300 balls are a lot, and most of our batsmen lack the technique and temperament to bat time while scoring reasonably quickly. The reason the Windies have not won an ODI series in four years is not because we are dunces. Clive Lloyd’s team won the first two World Cups and dominated ODIs for years, not because they were out-thinking people. They simply could bat, bowl, and field better than the other teams then.
So it’s not about ‘brainless’ cricket. If you don’t have the skill set, thinking won’t help you. Our problem is ability, not brains. It’s as simple as that.