Evin Lewis
Evin Lewis of West Indies plays a shot during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match against South Africa at the Dubai International Stadium on October 26, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo: all power-hitters with awesome records in T20 leagues worldwide. Add to that then young guns: Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer. No target should be beyond for a side filled with these stalwarts. Such is their quality that a good knock from one of them should be enough to catapult the West Indies to victory.

That hasn’t happened in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. The West Indies floundered when they were put to bat in two games, and the result was two below-par totals that led to comprehensive defeats.

Caribbean fizz is missing

The defending champions are now at risk of crashing out of the tournament. West Indies have to win the games against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Australia to keep alive prospects of entering the semifinals. Even if they win the rest of the games, West Indies would require favourable results from the other Group 1 matches.

What went wrong? How can a team with such astonishing batting power fail to muster decent totals? Part of the problem is the slowness of the pitches. It’s not conducive to extravagant strokeplay; a hard graft is required to compile runs. But 55 in the first game against England beggars belief. And that paltry score seemed to have an impact on the second game as well.

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South Africa have a good attack, but the West Indian start was baffling; they were overly cautious until Lewis broke free from the shackles. Then they ran into trouble in the middle and slog overs. Slog is where Pollard, Russell and Bravo forged their fearsome reputation. The soaring sixes never came.

T20 games are won in the middle overs; acceleration in this phase is possible only if you have wickets in hand. West Indies have been losing wickets, and that’s undermining them. Here’s where you need an anchor: a batsman who can hold up one end and be a fulcrum for others to bat around. Larry Gomes and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had played such roles in the past, allowing the flamboyant stroke-makers to play with freedom.

The Caribbeans were treated to a lesson in anchoring an innings by South Africa’s Rassie van der Dussen. Maybe, they could take a leaf out of his book. It’s never too late.