The easy victory that the Ireland cricket team achieved today over the West Indies in the 2015 World Cup would, only a few years ago, have been greeted with gasps of astonishment from Ireland fans and lamentation from those of the West Indies. However, that Ireland won, and so handily, and that West Indies lost, and so completely, has raised barely an eyebrow. Ireland, a handy team whose ranks have routinely been raided by England in search of talent, is a professional outfit that makes that best of what it’s got and does the small things well. The West Indies, packed with T20 stars, is on a decline so precipitous that one might reasonably conclude that victory against Zimbabwe looks unlikely and uncertain against UAE. It would not be surprising if, should West Indies lose against either of these teams, it might crash out of the top league of teams and Ireland takes its place as a Test-playing nation.
I, Martin, recently spent time in Barbados, a nation that is fiercely protective and proud of its cricketing legacy—not least as the home of Sir Frank Worrell, who crafted out of the disparate Anglophone islands of the Caribbean a side that challenged the world in the 1960s, and laid the foundation for the great West Indies teams of the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. When I spoke to assorted Bajans about the state of the West Indies side today, each man and woman shook their head and expressed their disgust, using words like “greedy,” “lazy,” and “impatient” to describe the players. Given West Indies’ performance against Ireland, it is hard to argue. Until Darren Sammy and Lendl Simmons showed some application, the side had been playing in slow motion and without conviction: Chris Gayle was a shadow of his former self, Darren Bravo was run out ball-watching, Dwayne Smith played an idiotic shot, and the too-cool-for-school Marlon Samuels failed again.
For this England fan, the demise of the West Indies long ago lost the thrill of Schadenfreude at watching a mighty power brought low. The side that routinely destroyed English batting has not been a force in world cricket this century. Ireland, meanwhile, are on the upswing. It seems only fair that they play Test cricket. And I, for one, would be happy to return the (slightly used) Eoin Morgan and (virtually new) Boyd Rankin back to them.