Thursday, December 14, 2017

Nothing but the expected

Nothing's wrong with hoping for the best, except that when recent trends suggest otherwise, it is better to expect disappointment.

Just as the soon-to-be President of the Republic's public coronation next month follows a trend of so-called national leaders' self-obsession, so too should the batting track records of the West Indies women in One-Day Internationals and Trinidad and Tobago men in first-class matches have been pointers to what transpired in Mumbai and Arnos Vale yesterday.

Of course, Merissa Aguilleira's team exceeded expectations in reaching their first-ever World Cup final, defeating former title-holders and now six-time champions Australia for the first time along the way. So by any measurement, their performances over the three weeks of competition in India represented a significant improvement, and they will now be expected to build on that comparative success when they travel on to Sri Lanka for a series of ODI's and T20 fixtures beginning on Friday.

Under the supervision of coach Sherwin Campbell, the former West Indies opening batsman, their results have become increasingly favourable, although yesterday's 114-run hammering at the hands of the Australians in the final should not have been surprising in the context of the continuing struggles of the regional women to post competitive totals. Additionally, the over-reliance on Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin in the batting line-up meant that, unless either one or both were about to produce something really special, the match was virtually over as a contest from the moment Jodie Fields' side closed their innings at 259 for seven batting first.

Putting aside the runfest against the Sri Lankans, when Taylor smashed 171 out of an impressive total of 368 for eight, the West Indies have averaged less than 160 per innings in 11 completed ODI's this year, comprising the World Cup and a home series against South Africa. It speaks volumes for the quality of their bowling and the excellence of their outcricket that they are winning more matches than losing recently given a well-established record of ordinary batting.

So when the fielding is shoddy and key bowlers fail to rise to the occasion, as transpired under the late afternoon sunshine at the Brabourne Stadium yesterday (the same venue where the West Indies men, under the leadership of Brian Lara, came up woefully short against Ricky Ponting's Australians in the 2006 Champions Trophy final), there was really only going to be one result. Inevitably, the one-sided decider will add fuel to the fire of speculation that the Australians, whether or not their performance was intentionally poor, would not have been disappointed in losing to the West Indies in their last Super Sixes fixture on Wednesday as it ensured they would be facing the same opponents in the final.

You get the distinct impression that the disappointment is not too acute either when Trinidad and Tobago fall flat on their faces in regional first-class competition, as happened over the weekend when their opening foray in the 2013 tournament turned out to be a ten-wicket trouncing from the Windward Islands in less than seven sessions of play.

Not surprisingly, everyone—from captain, to manager to coach—was making optimistic noises ahead of the trip to St Vincent, so determined were they, or so they were attempting to make us believe, to prove those wrong who have suggested that that the bright lights, explosive action and significant spectator interest and participation in the lucrative T20 format, with all its promises of glory and riches with franchises near and far, was such an intoxicating brew that coping with four scheduled days of cricket in front of ten men and a dog was akin to the morning after some heavy-duty partying.

And there will be the usual "putting that performance behind us and looking forward to the next match" tripe that we have grown accustomed to at all levels of sport in this part of the world, although, again, the evidence of recent years suggests that the batting collapses of the previous three days are more the norm than the exception, especially since the Trinidad and Tobago players got their first taste of international T20 recognition and all its enticing possibilities when they reached the final of the inaugural Champions League in 2009.

In the 2010 first-class season that followed their dream run in India, there were five completed totals of under 200 and only two over 300 (416 and 412). Last year, Trinidad and Tobago were dismissed for under 200 seven times and only once (364 for nine) did they get past 300. Indeed, being bundled out for 179 on Friday and then to be obliterated for 86 between Saturday evening and yesterday morning merely represents a continuation of the deplorable batting of 2012, when the team led by Denesh Ramdin put an embarrassing seal to another forgettable first-class campaign with totals of 84 and 128 against Barbados in one semi-final at the Queen's Park Oval.

To be fair, it is entirely unrealistic, especially at a time when our titular heads of state and leaders of government - past, present and future – are leading the pursuit of self-aggrandisement, to expect young men who have seen and experienced the glitter and the revenue of T20 to be just as motivated for what appears by comparison to be a dreary, thankless treadmill.

Nor should we feel let down by the results on opposite sides of the planet yesterday. Even with all the optimism in the world, the track records of the two teams should have prepared us for defeat.