By Tony (McWatt) and the Reds (Perreira)
Avid lovers of classic movies will remember the 1966 spaghetti western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The film starred Clint Eastwood (Blondie) as the good, Lee Van Cleef (Evil Eyes) as the evil and Eli Wallach (Tuco, The Rat) as the ugly. For us, our following annual review of West Indies cricket’s 2021 is very similar to a reflection of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Given all that has happened over the last 12 months, and as we always face the space constraints of having to limit the length of our articles to just one page, the next review can and will at best be top line and something superficial. However, we trust that our readers will fully understand and appreciate the governing effect of such limitations.
As a start to some of what can now be classified as “The Good”, there were of course the very impressive and much improved advances that our West Indian women’s cricketers made under the guidance of head coach Courtney Walsh. The team delivered positive results in most of the matches played. There were also some brilliant individual performances from among others Deandra Dottin, Hayley Matthews and Skipper Stafanie Taylor.
Dottin had a very welcome return to form, Taylor impressively went past the 5000 career mark, and Matthews all-round brilliance was enough to give her the ICC nomination as Woman Cricketer of the Month in November 2021. Completely encouraging development to say the least.
West Indies Junior Men’s Rising Stars cricketers also had a very encouraging tour of England in preparation for their participation in the upcoming Caribbean host of the ICC U19 World Cup. Teddy Bishop, Matthew Nandu and Isaiah Thorne will be among those in the West Indian Rising Stars squad, whose performances will be followed very closely during the upcoming World Cup.
On the Men’s Senior front, there was also some that can be dug up for classification as The Good. Kraigg Brathwaite’s recovery of his run-scoring consistency, as the West Indies opening batsman and captain, would now be at the very top of the list.
Brathwaite collected 675 runs during the 2021 calendar year. His ten slaughtered innings included a century, three half centuries as well as a 47.
The most encouraging development for the West Indies during 2021, however, was, at least in terms of test cricket, the emergence of 20-year-old Jayden Seales as part of the West Indies nail-biting attack. Since making his Test debut on June 10 against South Africa, Seales has already won 16 wickets in just the four Tests he has played to date. In the process. he has also demonstrated himself as being in satisfactory possession of the pace and accuracy that have been the hallmarks of all gradually great fast bowlers. Seals’ emergence as a worthy new ball partner for the experienced Kemar Roach has therefore been an extremely welcome development for West Indies cricket.
In terms of the limited overflow of white balls by the West Indies, cricket has also been the performance of leg spinner Akeal Hosein during both the recent T20 series against Pakistan as well as the pre-World Cup in 2021. The versatile hard-hitting batting and fast bowling abilities demonstrated by both Romario Shepherd and Odean Smith during the Pakistani host T20 Series, were also very encouraging, as was Brandon King’s return to form at the top of the West Indies battle order.
Together with Nicholas Pooran’s demonstrated leadership qualities as the captain of the Caribbean Pakistan T20 Series as well as his own form of strike, such a development suggests much improved performance from the West Indian white football teams in 2022 than those experienced in 2021 In fact, the generally depressing poor performance from the West Indies teams across all three formats in 2021 will now be at the very top of the long list of what can be described and defined as “The Bad!”
During 2021, the West Indies played a total of 44 matches, consisting of 10 tests, 9 ODIs and 25 T20Is. Their respective player records for each format were won 3, lost 5, draw 2 for trials; Won 4, lost 5 for ODIs and won 9, lost 13 for T20Is. The resulting win / loss ratio is an astonishing 13/44 or 29.5%. In fact, this means that the West Indies have lost about 60% of all the matches they played in 2021.
Such statistics can now only be interpreted as an inevitable proof of the decline in performance standards by both the West Indies players themselves, as well as by the Phil Simmons-led coaching team, under whose guidance they have played. Contrary to any noticeable signs of improvement, far too many West Indies players have either declined over the past year or stagnated at best in terms of their further development. A topicality that questions the skills of Simmons and his assistants, especially the batting and bowling coaches, Monty Desai and Roddy Estwick.
The eerily low win / loss ratio, regressive and / or stagnant player development and highly questionable coaching staff competencies can now all be listed as being foremost among all that was The Bad, for West Indies cricket in 2021. Cricket West Indies has sent its players to participate in not one, but two consecutive globally televised series, dressed in shirts with the former team sponsor logo covered with masking tape, should also be added to this list.
In terms of what can now be classified as the ugly, at the very top of the list would be the 2021 World Cup squad selection failure, as well as the subsequent failure to renew contracts with chairman Roger Harper and Miles Bascome as members of the panel responsible for its unfolding. The actual utterly disappointing performance from the West Indies team at the World Cup would also be very high on the list of “The Ugly!” It would also be the ongoing controversy surrounding the suitability of current West Indian fitness standards, which has resulted in highly disturbing and unpleasant images of noticeably overweight and unfit players adorning international cricket pitches as part of our playing team.
As previously mentioned, the previous review of West Indian cricket was 2o21 years, as a result of the associated space constraints, top line and superficial. However limited it may have been, it should now serve as an indication that there was far too much that readily included The Bad and The Ugly as opposed to The Good. In the aforementioned spaghetti western movie, Clint Eastwood’s The Good character naturally comes triumphantly over both Lee Van Cleef as The Bad and Eli Wallach The Ugly. We can only hope that the coming 2022 New Year for cricket from the West Indies will yield a very similar result.
From both of us to all of you our readers, we wish you a very good, most prosperous and Covid-safe New Year!
About the authors:
Tony McWatt, born in Guyana, Toronto, is the publisher of both WI Wickets and Wickets monthly online cricket magazines targeted at Caribbean and Canadian readers, respectively. He is also the only son of the former wicket-keeper batsman from Guyana and the Caribbean, the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.
Guyana-born Reds (Perreira) has served as a world-renowned West Indies Cricket commentator for well over fifty years. The Reds made their TV debut during the 1971 West Indies-India Test Series and have commented on hundreds of matches since then!