Windies should do it easily
The two-test?cricket series against Bangladesh starting next Tuesday in Mirpur should be like taking candy from a baby for the West Indies. Nothing but a 2-0 sweep against the Bangladeshis in their own backyard will suffice even with the absence of injured strike bowler Kemar Roach.
Ever since the World Twenty20 title triumph in Sri Lanka, which followed series victory against New Zealand in all three formats – T20, One-Day International (ODI) and Test – there has been a big song and dance in the Caribbean.
Success should be celebrated, and the West Indies can certainly boast of being the best T20 team in the world.
After soundly whipping New Zealand 2-0 in the Caribbean prior to the T20 title triumph, the Windies must now convincingly whip Bangladesh, who are undoubtedly the weakest test side, having won only three of their 73 Tests, two against the second-string Floyd Reifer-led Windies and the other against Zimbabwe, who no longer play Test cricket.
While Bangladesh will have home advantage and the pitches should suit their spinners, this should not stop the West Indies from prevailing with a batting line-up headed by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the in-form Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle.
The returning Darren Bravo and Narsingh Deonarine, both good players of spin, will provide support while young opener Kieran Powell will be looking to build from a maiden century against the Black Caps.
But really and truly, Bangladesh do not have any quality bowlers to trouble the West Indies. All-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who bowls left arm spin, is their key man with bat and ball. He has 96 wickets in 26 Tests at 31.36 runs apiece and averages 34.68 with the bat.
Attacking left-handed opener Tamim Iqbal, who has four centuries with an average of 38 in his 24 Tests, is Bangladesh’s best batsman. There is also the diminutive wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim, who is no slouch with the bat.
They will be up against a Windies’ bowling attack without Roach, whose 39 wickets in seven Tests this year and 82 overall in 21 Tests at 27.69 are proof of his value.
In Roach’s absence, the pace attack will be in the hands of Ravi Rampaul, Tino Best, Fidel Edwards and lion-hearted captain Darren Sammy. Whereas Best has looked the part in his two Tests this year, with six wickets at 20.16, the other three have all struggled for success.
Rampaul took nine wickets in four Tests at 37.77; Sammy had 12 in eight Tests at 53.83 and Edwards managed four wickets at 74 runs apiece in three Tests.
Sammy, however, has a good record against Bangladesh, with two of his four five-wicket hauls in Test cricket coming against them and 16 wickets all told at 20.06 in four Tests.
Somehow, I get the feeling that Sammy has not been 100 per cent fit in recent times as he has been going and going ever since he was appointed captain, hardly missing a major match. It was very conspicuous that he delivered a solitary over in the three-day warm-up match against the High Performance Centre because of a niggling injury.
Coach Ottis Gibson spoke about managing the workload of Roach prior to the team’s departure, but he also needs to pay some attention to the skipper. I felt this Bangladesh tour would’ve been the perfect time to rest Sammy while using the opportunity to get Shannon Gabriel back in the thick of things, against light-weight opposition.
Based on his record this year, Best should be an automatic choice and since Sammy and off-spinner Sunil?Narine are assured of their places, then it should be a toss-up between Rampaul, with a record of 44 wickets in 17 Tests at 35.34 or Edwards, who has 158 wickets at 38.37 in 54 Tests, for the other bowling spot.
It is also worth noting that Edwards, who dismantled the Bangladesh top-order, claiming the first five wickets to set up a victory when the teams met last year in Bangladesh, has a telling a strike rate (SR) of a wicket every 59 balls compared to 72 by both Rampaul and Sammy.
Talking about strike rates, the late Malcolm Marshall (46.7) and Colin Croft (49.3) are the only West Indian fast bowlers with over 100 wickets who have strike rates under 50 balls for every wicket.
Croft captured 125 wickets at 23.30 in just 27 Tests and his record stands out among other West Indian pacers who played a similar number of Tests.
For example, current captain Sammy has 71 wickets in 29 Tests at 34.07 with an SR of 72.5; Jerome Taylor took 82 in 29 Tests at 35.64 and a SR of 60.1; Charlie Griffith captured 94 wickets in 28 Tests at 28.54, SR of 59.9; Kenny Benjamin had 92 in 26 Tests at 30.27, SR of 55.7; Patrick Patterson earned 93 in 28 Tests at 30.90, SR of 51.9; Corey Collymore took 93 in 30 Tests at 32.30, SR of 68.1; while Pedro Collins bagged 106 in 32 Tests at 34.63, SR of 65.6.
Marshall, who took 376 wickets in 81 Tests, is also among only three West Indians whose Test bowling average is under 21 runs for each wicket. Apart from Marshall (20.94), the two others are Joel Garner (20.97), who took 259 wickets in 58 Tests, and Curtly Ambrose (20.99), who snared 405 scalps in 98 Tests.