The West Indies team has had underwhelming performances in all formats of the games for decades-the watershed moment being the series loss to Australia in 1995 that broke the West Indies 15 years of dominating world cricket – the West Indies did not lose a test series between 1980 and 1995.
Since losing this series to Steve Waugh’s Australia, the West Indies have been in terminal decline, which has resulted in them falling from the pinnacle of test cricket to currently be the number eight ranked team in the world due to inconsistent performance for over two decades.
The team has played well in patches and have won a few test matches with some stunning displays, notably the victory against Australia in Bridgetown Barbados in 1999 on the back of a brilliant 153 not out by Brian Lara.
Also, a stunning win against South Africa in 2007 on the back of an excellent team performance; they also won a test series against England in the West Indies in 2009 and New Zealand in 2012 and had a memorable victory against England in 2017 largely due to herculean efforts by Shai Hope and Kraigg Braithwaite.
In direct contrast to these stunning rear-guard victories, the team suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of Bangladesh in 2009 and their most recent test match last week. They have not won a test match series against top-eight opposition since 2012, making them the most inconsistent top-flight team in world cricket, and sometimes we are at a loss for words to describe the performance of the team. We will look at a few possible reasons which might help to explain the longstanding inconsistency of the West Indies Team.
One of the reasons that we think is a contributing factor to the underwhelming and inconsistent performance of the West Indies Team is the amount of regional cricket that is played and the lack of quality in the regional competitions.
First class cricket in the West Indies is played over a two to three-month period of the year where our regional players play between 5 and ten matches. For the remainder of the year, they play club cricket in their respective countries which is not of the quality to effectively hone their cricketing skills.
These players despite having tremendous talent tend to fail when catapulted into the competitive and professional world of test cricket because they have to be learning their game while playing test cricket. This issue has intensified since West Indian players have to a large extent stopped playing county cricket in England. County cricket was the training ground for most of the great West Indian players in the era when the West Indies dominated world cricket.
The lack of competitive and consistent cricket been available to West Indian first-class players will continue to stunt the development of cricket in the small island economies that make up the West Indies. Despite the talent in the region, the West Indies team will regrettably continue to languish in the bottom tier of world cricket until Cricket Administrators in the region find a way to harness the obvious raw talent of young West Indian players into mentally tough professionals. This is easier said than done since they have to get them playing more quality cricket which is hard to come by in the Caribbean!
Another reason for the inconsistent performance of the West Indies Team in Test matches is the growth of T-20 Cricket and the financial benefits to be accrued from playing this shorter format of the game. If you speak to most young and upcoming West Indian Cricketers, they will tell you that they aspire to play T-20 cricket because of the financial rewards that are available in this format.
Playing T-20 cricket requires an attacking mindset due to the rapid-fire nature of the matches and the need to provide entertainment. Test cricket, on the other hand, is a grind that requires patience and concentration over a long period, and players have to be able to transition seamlessly from one format to the next.
This is not the case with some West Indian current day players, who tend to play cavalierly in test matches which is a mentality that has been picked up from T-20 cricket. This has resulted in batsmen getting starts and due to impatience throw away their wickets – this type of batting significantly affects the score that the team makes and also gives the opposing team enough time to bat well and easily win the test match.
Finally, the nature of first-class cricket in the Caribbean and the effects of T-20 cricket on the mentality of West Indian cricketers are possible reasons why the team has been so inconsistent at the Test level. Will this change in the near future? Highly unlikely!