The good news - the West Indies have won the T20 series against the mighty Australians. I did say they are not as mighty as one would have thought as they are missing a number of their star T20 performers however, a win is a win.
Unfortunately, the West Indies selectors are still experimenting with their T20 best eleven. Some players were allowed to rest and others are nursing minor injuries so it allowed the Aussies to win game 4. In the end, it turned out to be a cliffhanger as Andre Russell and Fabian Allen needed 36 off the last 2 overs and when 25 runs came from the first 5 balls in over number 19, mission impossible seemed highly probable. But, Allen was dismissed with the final ball of the over and Mitchell Starc produced a quite outstanding over to deny Russell the 11 runs needed to secure a West Indies victory.
Some fans were upset that Russell did not run a single off the first ball which would have meant Starc would have had to be bowling to the left-handed Hayden Walsh Jr. so his line would have had to change and bowling to Walsh could have upset his rhythm. Nonetheless, anyone would have backed Russell to get those 11 runs. I found Starc’s performance to be simply superb.
West Indies have in fact played some good cricket. I did say when Chris Gayle makes runs, I would raise my glass to him which I certainly did and I was happy for him but I have not changed my view that a younger player should be given the opportunity. Again, I ask the question: where is Darren Bravo? Is he injured? It would have been ideal with him coming in to bat in game 4 at number 4 when Adam Zampa was bowling well and had the West Indies batsmen in trouble with his leg-spin. Few batsmen in the region play spin as well as Darren Bravo and we have seen the West Indies batsmen struggle against the spin bowlers, especially in the series against South Africa.
It appears the West Indies selectors have made up their minds that this will be the squad for the T20 World Cup. I am hoping it is not so as there is still a game to play against the Aussies and Pakistan arrives in the region to play five T20 internationals beginning on July 27. Then, in August, the CPL bowls off so there is ample time for other players to address the selectors.
The bowling department seems to have settled down with both young Walsh and Obed McCoy bowling well. Dwayne Bravo seems to be enjoying his cricket and is an asset with his bowling at the death. Russell has the experience to up his game but Sheldon Cottrell needs to be more consistent to command a regular place in the team. That being said, an exciting few months are ahead with T20 cricket.
In football, it was a Sunday night to remember for T&T football fans as they celebrated their team’s master plan against the Mexicans. I always knew T&T could not go in and fight the Mexicans toe to toe or they would be floored even before the contest really got going. So, the fact that T&T started with 5 at the back and 4 in midfield ultimately stifled their opponents. The Soca Warriors were double-tackling the gifted Mexicans and never gave them the room or allowed them to settle and when they occasionally breached the defence, Marvin Phillip was absolutely brilliant. T&T’s overall defence was excellent and I did say that all the fans can ask for is for their team to play with the right attitude, heart and determination. Well, they got that and more.
Unfortunately, on Wednesday night, T&T went down to El Salvador by two goals to nil but the team can hold their heads high. They did not play particularly well in the first half against the Salvadorians. They did not have the fluency that we have seen in other games and some players seemed to be leg-weary. However, they gave it their all in the second period and were unlucky not to score. But this El Salvador team is a good one and they took their opportunities when they were presented.
As I suggested, it is a tough group as originally Curacao was the fourth team and their football is on the rise. But when they were replaced by Guatemala as a result of some COVID-19 related issues, the Soca Warriors had to get a result against El Salvador. This result, coupled with Mexico’s win against Guatemala on Wednesday night, now makes it impossible for T&T to finish first or an unlikely second in the group as Mexico's final game is against the already qualified El Salvador. For a second-place finish, it would mean T&T must defeat Guatemala and hope that El Salvador does the unthinkable and beat Mexico. I expect El Salvador to rest some of their first-choice players which would make the task even easier for the Mexican players and their band of hooligan supporters who were absolutely disgraceful during and after the T&T match with their overt racism towards the T&T players and fans. It saddens me that racism still manages to rear its ugly head in our beautiful game.
In retrospect, at best, T&T may finish 3rd in the group but more importantly, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I believe coach Angus Eve and his staff have done a good job. The players are fighting for him. They are going out onto the field of play with the right attitude and the determination that T&T fans have longed to see in their national team. There is still some ironing out to do but one has to remember that the Soca Warriors went into this tournament without some of their best players and that was the main reason I felt that they were facing an uphill battle to qualify for the quarterfinals from the group stage. What a difference Levi and Judah Garcia would have made as well as skipper Khaleem Hyland and Joevin Jones. Together with some of the younger players, I can see the team’s performance improvement over the next year.
Off the field, the administration needs to give the coaching staff and the players all the support needed so they can take the football to the next level. The fans are begging out for the day when, once again, they can go to the Hasely Crawford Stadium and see the Soca Warriors take on the might of CONCACAF and not only compete against them but be in a position to get a victory. With the proper formula and right attitude, who knows? That day may come much sooner than expected.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.