In years to come, when people are dissecting the corpse of One Day International cricket, series such as this one will loom large on the list of suspected causes of death. The West Indies have flown into Australia for five ODI’s and a T20 that absolutely nobody cares about. The public don’t care, particularly when they are being charged Aus$70 for the privilege of turning up. The selectors don’t care since they have already placed half the team in cotton wool, ready to be sent over to India for extended acclimatisation ahead of the Test series. The broadcaster doesn’t care, since the Channel Nine promos feature far more West Indian greats than it does members of this current side, suggesting they have no idea who plays for the Windies these days, and we suspect the players don’t care much either, viewing the series as a handy warm-up ahead of the IPL, but little more.
Deary me, what a mess. Let’s just forget all about the Shane Warne rubbish and focus on the reality of this current Aussie outfit. Injuries have utterly gutted the squad, with David Warner the latest man to go down. Shane Watson was seen walking without a limp recently (personally we think this is about as likely as Jade Dernbach getting a decent haircut) but has been passed over so he can prepare for the Indian tour. Moises Henriques has also had to get one of his fingers amputated after getting it caught in a cutlery drawer, meaning options are at a premium. Couple this with the fact that Australia’s first tour game in India begins February 12th, and you can see why this series has disaster written all over it.
The first two games of the series may see somewhat full strength outfits turn out, but the final three definitely will not, with the Indian tour taking precedence in Cricket Australia’s planning. This is a stance nobody can really argue with, since Test cricket is, and should be, the priority. But the flipside is that this series is effectively a write off before it’s even begun, and will generate further negative publicity for an already under siege administration.
On the positive side we could see some players get a deserved extended run in the national team, like Usman Khawaja and hopefully Steve Smith (please make this happen). We don’t know why Nathan Coutler-Nile keeps getting passed over, but surely he needs to get a look in now, and Alex Doolan is another name that keeps popping up. The prospect of an Australia A team mixing it with the big boys would have had the locals in a lather a few years ago. The fact that nobody cares now is perhaps just a sign of how far Australia, and ODI’s in general, have fallen.
This must be a pretty sweet gig for the Windies. Rock up, play a couple of games against a massively depleted side, presumably have access to all the KFC they can eat, and then bugger off to pastures new (i.e. the IPL). With the locals engaged in the messy business of tearing their national team apart, they can look like the good guys. Plus they must enjoy the opportunity to laugh at the misery of another nation’s beleaguered administration for a change.
Chris Gayle sat out the warm-up match at Manuka Oval (which the Windies lost by the way, even though old man Ponting was playing), but should be ready for the series start, and hopefully in some sort of form as well, after his Big Bash heroics with the Sydney Chunder. On paper at least the Windies are possibly the superior outfit, as their performances the last time these teams met (in the West Indies early last year) indicated. On that occasion Sunil Narine proved the difference though his star has somewhat dimmed since (whatever happened to Devendra Bishoo?). In Australia that won’t matter quite so much though, as it will be their battery of bits and piece medium pacers, like Kieron Pollard, who will be doing all the hard work.
Having been embarrassingly turned over in a series against Bangladesh late last year, this is a perfect opportunity to for the Windies to bounce back with what is still regarded as a prized scalp, knocking over the Aussies on their home deck. However you want to look at it, they have the perfect opportunity here.
As with the series against Sri Lanka, it’s hard to make a prediction purely because of the upheavals the hosts will experience during the series. We have no idea who they will end the series fielding, although surely things won’t get so bad as seeing Kane Richardson getting a recall. Will it? At their best Australia will win, but they haven’t been at their best in this format for a long, long, time. Perhaps the opportunity presented to fringe players being able to show their wares may ultimately prove to be in their benefit.
Australia to win the ODI’s 3-2, Windies to win the one-off T20, and Steve Smith to be bloody awesome and fully justify his selection for the tour to India.