Can Windies beat the odds?
Before a ball has been bowled, the cricket pundits, with plenty of justification based on past results, reckon the West Indies have little chance of beating world No.1 South Africa in the upcoming three-Test series.
The fact that the series is being played on South African soil makes it even more difficult for Denesh Ramdin’s generally inexperienced West Indian outfit to return home with the Vivian Richards Trophy.
In 12 Tests in South Africa, the Windies have won just one, while losing 10 and drawing the other. The overall record is also not inspiring either, as in a total of 25 Tests,the Windies have beaten the Proteas just thrice while losing 16 times and drawing the other six.
Actually, the West Indies won the first Test between the teams back in 1992 when Barbadians boycotted the match at Kensington Oval in protest over the omission of local player Anderson Cummins.
Since then, the teams have played in six series, three in South Africa and three in the Caribbean, and the West Indies have lost all of them.
After their delayed departure from London due to a pay dispute, the South Africans showed no mercy for Brian Lara’s side when they arrived for the 1998-1999, tour, dishing out a 5-0 whitewash.
The 2001 series in the Caribbean was much closer with South Africa winning 2-1, but there was another away thrashing for the West Indies in 2004 with the South Africans triumphing 3-0 in a four-match rubber. The following year, South Africa also won comfortably 2-0 in the Caribbean.
On the West Indies’ last trip to South Africa in 2008, they finally won a Test there, but still lost the series 2-1 and back in the Caribbean in 2010, the Windies succumbed 2-0 in the three-match series.
From an individual perspective, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the most capped Test cricketer in West Indies’ history, needs a further 270 runs to overtake Brian Lara as the Windies’ leading run-scorer.
Lara scored 11 953 runs in 131 Tests at an average of 52.88 while Chanderpaul has 11 684 runs from his 158 Tests with an average of 53.10.
What is noteworthy, whereas Lara had just six not outs in 230 Test innings, Chanderpaul had a whopping 49 from 269 innings.
Chanderpaul has a good record against the Proetas, scoring 1619 runs in 20 Tests at an average of 50.59 with five centuries. Eleven of those Tests were in South Africa where he averages 42.05 and has two centuries.
He has also been in excellent form this year, amassing 465 runs in five Tests at an average of 116.25 runs.
With both Chris Gayle and Darren Bravo withdrawing from the series, the Windies’ batting will be severely tested against the best fast-bowling attack on the Test circuit at present in Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.
The inconsistent Marlon Samuels, after his two One-day centuries against India on the ill-fated India tour, will need to replicate his phenomenal 2012 form as he tries to boost his Test stats in his third coming.
With 2983 runs from 92 innings in 52 Tests at an average of 34.68, Samuels, who has five centuries, is just 17 away from the 3 000-mark, and will have extra responsibilities.
He is just behind his Jamaican compatriot and former West Indies captain Jimmy Adams, who hit six centuries and scored 3012 runs in 54 Tests, but his average of 41.26 was boosted by 17 not outs, to Samuels’ six.
Augustine Logie, like Samuels, also played 52 Tests but while he ended his career with a slighter better average of 35.79, he scored only two hundreds and amassed 2470 runs from 78 innings.
Captain Denesh Ramdin will also be looking to continue his rich vein of form over the past two years. He now has four centuries in 61 Tests and will be looking to join Jeffrey Dujon, who had five in 81 Tests but averaged 31.94 to Ramdin’s current 27.27.
But Ramdin has a poor record against South Africa, averaging 17.20 in six Tests with a highest score of 32.
Devon Smith, who averages a mere 24.71 and has managed a solitary century in 33 Tests while scoring 1384 runs, has been recalled to replace Gayle.
One thing which could be in Smith’s favour after his troubles against off-spin bowling in the past is that South Africa are lacking in that department with run-of-the-mill left-arm spinner Robin Peterson replacing leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
Smith’s partnership with Kraigg Brathwaite at the top will be crucial as any early wicket will expose either of the Guyanese left-handers, Leon Johnson and Assad Fudadin.
At least the West Indies’ pace spearhead of Kemar Roach (111 wickets in 28 Tests at 25.98) and Jerome Taylor (100 in 34 Tests at 33.94) and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn (79 wickets, including six five-wicket hauls in 22 Tests at 35.60) won’t have to worry about two retired South African tormentors with the bat in Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith.
In 24 Tests versus the Windies, Kallis amassed 2356 runs at an average of 73.62 with eight centuries while Smith scored 1593 runs in 14 Tests at an average of 69.26 with seven centuries.
Whereas A.B. de Villiers has a good record with four centuries in 10 Tests and an average of 79.76, new South African Test skipper Hashim Amla has one fifty in six Tests and 11 innings in which he is only averaging 27.00 against the Windies.