Need to be good across formats

The West Indies team is made up of players better suited for the shorter formats, but they are not consistent enough. It’s obviously irksome for the selectors. The Caribbean nations, however, need to produce more cricketers with the requisite skill set to succeed in the Test arena. Only then will the team be good enough to compete consistently at the highest level, across all formats.

A fortnight ago Clive Lloyd had blamed the advent of T20 for the decline of Caribbean cricket. Good players, who have the right mindset, can dominate any form of the game. AB de Villiers, the South African limited-overs captain, hit the fastest ODI century (in 31 balls) against the West Indies.

The news was a little difficult to fathom at first, as the feat seemed to be near impossible. One was left marvelling de Villiers’ talent, audacity and unique hand-eye coordination. To execute shots all around, with such consistency, against quality bowling, requires a certain élan.

The South African has always been an excellent innovator in the shorter formats of the game. But, he has excelled in the Test arena too. The inclination to move stealthily around the crease, with supreme confidence, was the hallmark of the great Sir Vivian Richards. Since his retirement, many batsmen have been compared to him, but de Villiers, probably, is his closest prototype. But even the Great Viv never played the scoop behind the wicket or the reverse sweep. Maybe the West Indian never felt the need to be extra inventive.

Even while playing a premeditated shot, de Villiers can make late last minute adjustments, making him a unique talent. Usually, when a batsman decides on playing a predetermined shot, he generally goes through with it regardless of the ball. But, de Villiers has a Plan B too and can change his shot midway without being ruffled. The South Africans are blessed to have him in their ranks, and perhaps even as a captain he will have many aces up his sleeves, to be unleashed when the going gets tough. In the past, the South Africans have come unstuck during knockout stages of major competitions, looking dazed and lost whenever a set plan has failed to work.

The Windies bowlers, despite the pulverising, cannot be blamed as they were up against a genius. They bowled quick and tried hard but the batsman here was always a step ahead, responding in superlative fashion. Bowlers of yesteryear hardly ever had an answer to Richards.

The West Indies team is made up of players better suited for the shorter formats, but they are not consistent enough. It’s obviously irksome for the selectors. The Caribbean nations, however, need to produce more cricketers with the requisite skill set to succeed in the Test arena. Only then will the team be good enough to compete consistently at the highest level, across all formats.

Other countries can enjoy the luxury of picking different squads for different formats, but the West Indies need to pick the same side, across formats, for a few years, to help revive their cricket.