West Indies cricket is in typical disarray going into this weekend’s World Cup tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
More protracted disputes between the West Indies Cricket Board and players, Monday’s batting collapse against England’s seamers, and Chris Gayle’s recent outburst against the board for not taking two senior players are the backdrop to their preparations for their first match against Ireland on Monday.
The fact that 23-year-old novice Jason Holder was recently appointed captain looks like another ludicrous decision by the board as well.
Not an encouraging buildup, but West Indies have been in the same situation numerous times before on the eve of big tournaments.
It never used to be this bad. Windies were consecutive World Cup winners in 1975 and 1979 and had another final appearance in 1983 in the 50-over format.
Australia with four wins are the only side with more success in this tournament.
But after the initial success of the World Cup’s earliest days, West Indies have to go back to 1996, when they made the semifinals, for even moderate success.
Cricket used to be the dominant sport in the English-speaking Caribbean. Those days are long gone, evidenced by the fact that there are only a few journalists from the region at the World Cup and a meager number of West Indies supporters have made the long and expensive trip.
Even on the websites of Caribbean newspapers there is scant coverage and previews. Expectations are low and spirits are even lower.
Nevertheless, cricket-mad Nikolai Hill will be at his usual spot in Overtime sports bar in the Strand in Grand Cayman, glued to the TVs for West Indies matches.
“I’m not confident the West Indies will be in the running for the championship, so as a West Indian, I’m not overly excited,” said the Caymanian sports broadcaster.
“We struggle with execution, unlike times past. That’s the trait we’ve lacked most in the past 20 years.
“Our recent form in the 50-over version has been inconsistent against most recently South Africa and India prior. All hope will be on the great man Chris Gayle, but the Windies will need Marlon Samuels and the other batsmen to come through.”
He added that the West Indies bowling is weak, and Holder’s inexperience will work against him.
Hill predicts Australia are the best bet to win the tournament.