Up to the youth
JOHANNESBURG – The West Indies aren’t about to look back or think back about the last time they were in South Africa.
Denesh Ramdin and his men arrived in South Africa yesterday, only wanting to think about the future, and for the men in maroon to rebound from the trauma and controversy surrounding their withdrawal from the India tour almost two months ago.
Skipper Ramdin has reason to want to forget the last time West Indies played Tests in South Africa. He was going through a rough patch and scored only 109 runs in the three-Test series, which was sandwiched between rubbers against England and Sri Lanka where he didn’t manage much more.
But Ramdin is forcing himself to remember the summer of 2007 because it was a season when West Indies enjoyed a rare success.
They beat South Africa in Port Elizabeth – their only win in the country – in the series opener and were dreaming of more.
“The last time we were here we won the first Test match but then we didn’t show the fight and determination for the rest of the series,” Ramdin said on the team’s arrival yesterday. “This time we will let that motivate us and we will try and go one step further.”
If Ramdin is talking literally, he is asking his men for two victories which will see them take the Sir Viv Richards Trophy off South Africa and topple the world’s top-rated Test side.
That West Indies, who are ranked eighth with only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe below them, have allowed themselves to think that far seems admirable. That they are doing so while missing two headline batsmen in Chris Gayle and Darren Bravo appears nothing more than wishful. But Ramdin is lining his fantasy with reason.
“Of course, for any team that loses Chris Gayle, it’s a blow for them and everyone would have loved to see Darren here batting. He is a free stroke-playing guy but he’s got personal issues,” Ramdin said.
“So, hopefully, a young player can take the opportunity to do well for himself and the team. There are a couple of young players in the mix but then a couple of senior players – [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul, myself, Marlon Samuels – who will guide them through.”
Batting big is going to be West Indies’ priority and it may be why they arrived in the country with more than two weeks to go before the first Test.
“We are trying to acclimatise to the pitches as quickly as possible,” Ramdin said.
Their focus will be on readying the top-order for resistance against Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
“They have a very strong bowling line-up but we have to bat really long and not give them opportunities with the new ball to get the middle and lower order in,” Ramdin said.
It will be up to Devon Smith, Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood to step up and Ramdin is confident they will.
He pointed to Smith – fresh off a century for Windward Islands – and Brathwaite’s domestic form and urged them to make the most of the chance to “make a name for themselves”, in South Africa. (BA/PR)