By Sean Devers in St Lucia
In association with Vnet Communications
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The riot act must surely have been read to Jason Holder and his team after they sunk to
a new low with their embarrassing 63-loss to Afghanistan in the first ODI at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground on Friday and should be desperate to rebound with an emphatic win tonight to level the three-match series.
West Indies have not only been beaten by a team ranked lower than them in their own backyard but have also been defeated psychologically and for a young inexperienced unit such a loss could be a massive blow to their confidence and egos.
The loss was surprising but not totally unexpected since it is common knowledge that the standard of the West Indies First-Class and Super50 tournaments is the lowest among all the Test playing nations which is why it is sometimes unfair to expect Regional players to excel at the International level.
But losing to Afghanistan? Not even the most loyal West Indies fan would find an excuse for Friday night’s pathetic performance even with a team missing nearly all of its senior players.
On a track which assisted the four West Indian pacers, 18-year-old leg-spinner Rashid Khan destroyed the West Indies who left out their own leggie Devendra Bishoo who has not done anything significant to merit selection in the squad ahead of Rakeem Cornwall. Bishoo followed up an ordinary Regional Super50 with three expensive wickets in his last five ODIs.
Roston Chase has great temperament and is well suited for Test cricket, but like Bishoo he had an ordinary Regional Super50 and is not seen as a Limited overs batsman. If he retains his place tonight he should bat at number three and the others bat around him.
It has to be admitted that the pool of ‘International ready’ players in the West Indies is now getting smaller and smaller since all of our quality players are unavailability for various reasons. But even this team should have not been beaten so badly by Afghanistan and they would have not had much time to reflect on what went wrong on Friday.
West Indies could not have asked for a better track to bowl on and everything seemed to be going to plan after 40 overs with Afghanistan on 140-5. However, after a high-quality but sedate 81 from opener Javed Ahmadi, Gulbadin Naib (41*) and Mohammad Nabi (27) shared in an unfinished 48-ball 58-run seventh wicket stand that lifted them to 212, which many felt did not appear too big a challenge for West Indies.
The Afghan pacers also utilized the grassy track to keep batsmen quiet in the Power-play overs but from the time Khan struck with his first ball, it exposed the batsmen’s lack of skill and technique against quality spin.
Khan’s destructive career best 7-18 which is the fourth best ODI figures behind Chiminda Vass (8-19), Shahid Afridi (7-12) and Glen McGrath (7-15), should not be surprising since spinners, many with far less ability than Khan’s, have dominated in the West Indies tournaments at all levels.
Khan and Afridi are both leg-spinners and both had their ODI best figures against West Indies. Afridi was the architect of destruction at Providence in 2013 when West Indies were dismissed for 98, their lowest ODI total in the Caribbean.
Today the West Indies batsmen could again have their hands full picking Khan’s googlies, which he uses very often, something Bishoo should do more often.
However, the Afghan batsmen are uncomfortable to short balls and Shannon Gabriel and Alazzari Joseph are quicker than any of their Afghanistan counterparts. Miguel Cummins and Skipper Jason Holder also troubled to batsmen with the extra pace and carry on what is one of the better pitches in the West Indies.
The fast men have the ability to limit Afghanistan to a total below 140 and despite how well Khan bowls if West Indies bat with more positivity against the other bowlers they should easily emerge victorious.
On Friday the West Indies batsmen treated the bowlers with inexplicable respect and reached the boundary only once in the first 21 overs. This was even before Khan was introduced and turned the match on its head.
On such a large ground which should again be on the slow side, rotation of the strike and pressing the boundary riders was something the West Indies top order never did.
West Indies will need a positive start from Kieron Powell and Evin Lewis setting the stage for Chase, Shai Hope, Jason Mohammed and Jonathon Carter, the best batsman to spin in the team, to build on after Afghanistan outplayed the hosts in all departments of the game, especially fielding.
Despite their horrific loss on Friday West Indies should be the favorites to win today and level the series.
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