In preparation for writing this article, your humble author thought it would be worthwhile listing down all the things that appeared more interesting than yet another ODI series. When it was realised that the ever-growing list included, “discussion with girlfriend about state of our relationship”, and “clear the empty gin bottles out of the 51allout office”, it was concluded that this was not, perhaps, the best approach after all. Besides, on a website devoted to all things cricket (and gin) related, surely a new series between old foes should be the source of great anticipation, particularly when it follows sharply upon the heels of what has been described in some quarters as the greatest summer of ODI cricket ever held in Australia. A statement, for what it’s worth, that 51allout has rather diplomatically refused to endorse. All the talk in the office here is still over the immortal 2004/5 contest, where Pakistan and the West Indies vied in an immense struggle to prove who was the most incompetent. A struggle Pakistan ultimately won. Barely.
Despite appearances there must be a few fans out there for whom the upcoming contest between the West Indies and Australia is indeed keenly anticipated. Or at the very least, anticipated. So, it would be remiss of us to ignore this series completely and instead feel it is our duty, with gin in hand, to pass our informed gaze over the upcoming hostilities.
One reason why the locals may be less than enthusiastic about the upcoming ODI’s is because it’s not a format the West Indies have exactly excelled in of late. In fact, they’ve been pretty terrible. Their last appearance in a ODI series was the setting for ‘that’ Sehwag innings, whilst at home they’ve suffered series defeats to all the major cricketing nations in recent years, including, memorably, Bangladesh in 2009. Their last home series win was way back in 2007/8 against Sri Lanka.
To add to this gloomy outlook their team is not in the best of shape at the moment either. The withdrawal of Chris Gayle from the squad following another contractual dispute with the West Indian Cricket Board is a big blow. Presumably the Board felt that Gayle’s recent signing for the Davis Station Penguins in the upcoming Antarctic Premier League was taking things a little too far. On top of this the losses of Lendl Simmons and Ravi Rampaul (for the first few games) as well as Danesh Ramdin (for potentially the entire limited overs schedule) are extremely unwelcome, particularly after the latter impressed towards the end of the tour of India late last year.
In their stead the Windies have recalled Tino Best after a two-year absence (during which a huge number of glaziers have presumably gone out of business), and Carlton Baugh, who has likewise been on the fringes for their last two series. The key performers for the home team may well be Marlon Samuels, who offers some experience to a fairly young batting line-up, and Dwayne Bravo, who returns to the squad having decided he actually fancies playing again. Given the loss of some established players, his all-round ability could be crucial if the home side are to cause an upset. Or, more likely, to avoid a 5-0 thumping.
Australia come into the series after an exhausting limited overs competition which they ultimately won, albeit by stumbling over the line against Sri Lanka in the three match final series. After defeating the number two and three teams in the world, Australia retained their number one ranking, but more than a few issues within their squad have emerged.
In particular, the batting order appears to be in utter chaos, with the next batsmen in seemingly chosen by random lot in the dressing room at the fall of each wicket. The decision to drop Ricky Ponting (much to Kemar Roach’s disappointment we imagine), has thrown the entire line-up into disorder. The biggest concern at the moment is that Australia don’t have a natural number three. Many would argue that it’s a position Michael Clarke should fill but, as with the Test side, Clarke himself seems to prefer coming further down the order. Shane Watson, who will captain the team in Clarke’s injury-enforced absence, appears uncomfortable in the role of first drop, but the lack of any natural alternative will most likely mean he will occupy the position throughout the series.
There are concerns with the bowling also, particularly at the fast bowlers’ tendency to lose their heads late in an innings and let the opposition back into the game, something which occurred frequently against Sri Lanka especially, and was only partially countered by dropping one of their number for a second spinner in the third final. In short, when Xavier Doherty is your most effective bowler, you know something has gone seriously wrong somewhere. With the same fast bowling quartet chosen for this series (Lee, Hilfenhaus, McKay and Pattinson), improvement will be expected.
Otherwise this series offers an opportunity to see how some of the newer squad members (Lyon, Forrest and Bailey) integrate into the ODI setup, with all three sure to receive some game time during the series. Brad Haddin’s inclusion is more to do with the sheer complexity of getting from Australia to the West Indies; after being dropped from the squad he has been abysmal with the bat for NSW, averaging a little over twelve. However, as this author most humbly acknowledges having pointed out in a previous article, his inclusion has less to do with form than with the selectors feeling that there is no real suitable alternative for the position of reserve wicket-keeper at the moment.
Predicting a series like this is something of a mug’s game, so we feel more than qualified to offer an opinion. In the West Indies’ favour is the fact that they probably won’t face a full strength Australian line up at any point in the series, with the selectors most likely taking the opportunity to rest key players. David Warner, in particular, is in desperate need of a break, and will probably only play a limited part. Pride, also, should play a factor in the home team’s performances, particularly after some of their recent humiliations. However, the West Indian team doesn’t appear to contain the consistency of performance to truly trouble the tourists, and a heavy series loss looks likely. Still, we predict a couple of matches will be tightly contested, at the very least.
Australia to win 4-1.