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Where WI fell short


COLIN CROFT

Where WI fell short

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WEST INDIES could have won the opening Test versus England, but for mistakes from selectors, captain and players, and lack of knowledge of how to win. A creditable draw was a very good result.

Had West Indies had a better fourth front-line bowler ­– Devendra Bishoo from the Test squad, or Veerasammy Permaul from those originally called up – instead of Sulieman Benn, or had captain Denesh Ramdin used his premier bowler, Jerome Taylor, in more concise spells, then England would not have made 399 after being 34-3 in their first innings.  

England did give themselves and WI a chance, by declaring, but that first innings saved England.

Ramdin and new head coach Philip Simmons should be very proud of the way their players not only took to new leadership, but also took England head-on, with no fear.

Less we forget, West Indies, described as “mediocre” by ECB chairman Colin Graves, was supposed to have been blown away. Where exactly does that leave England now?

Graves should have noted one mantra from late, great, highly respected Australian icon Richie Benaud, whose loss has been universally lamented.  

Richie’s mantra, to be adhered to forever, was – “Put your brain into gear first before putting your mouth into gear!”

So, for West Indies versus England, Simmons could well be benefiting from efforts of much maligned past head coach Ottis Gibson, who, while not being as successful as required, certainly started instilling that necessary aspect into the efforts of most West Indian players – discipline.

This phenomenon of successors benefiting from predecessors is not new to West Indies either.  

Sir Frank Worrell is lauded as being the main architect in achieving togetherness in West Indies cricket, circa 1960s, but it was his successor as captain, Sir Garfield Sobers, who reaped most of that team’s benefits.

While Sir Frank’s team was extremely popular, they also lost regularly. It was Sir Garry’s team which was noted as world champions, after beating Australia in 1965, then England in 1966.

Clive Lloyd too did similarly to Sir Frank when he became captain in 1974/5.

Lloyd created, with the help of the nucleus of Deryck Murray, Gordon Greenidge, Roy Fredericks, Alvin Kallicharran and Sir Andy Roberts, a colourful canvas of superlative, world-beating, athletic cricketers not ever seen previously and not likely to be ever seen again.  

When Lloyd passed the captaincy to Sir Vivian Richards, West Indies were again world champions.

Sir Viv, celebrated for not ever losing a Test series as captain, was handed a team that was well honed, thoroughly experienced and knowledgeable, each player knowing his exact role. Under Sir Viv’s captaincy, West Indies could not have lost a Test series even if they tried to do so.

Unfortunately, Simmons and Ramdin do not have such luxuries, but already evident is that the two Trinidadians seem to be working from the same page.

Realistically, the Test team needs at least one additional front-line bowler, probably two front-line batsmen, and, with Jason Holder’s excellent achievement of a maiden first class and Test century, perhaps another similarly producing all-rounder.  

Kemar Roach, Taylor, Benn and Holder will not, collectively, not now, not ever in the future, put fear into opposing Test batsmen’s heads, even if those four do try hard.  

Taylor got five good wickets in Test No. 1, and should be at his sporting peak at 30 years-old, but he averages just three wickets per Test.  

If each bowler in a four-man bowling attack, as West Indies have, averages that, then they will never dismiss any Test team twice without six or seven run-outs.

Roach looked under-paced, needing match-fitness and much work. With past injuries, perhaps his best is already gone, but his first Test production of five wickets too was commendable, even if, in the second innings, he lacked pace and penetration when necessary for a good second innings effort.

Unsurprisingly, Benn continues to be poor, being neither frugal nor wicket-productive. This should be his last hurrah. Match figures of 53-6-200-2 are not good enough even for the beach.

Holder is still bowling at way-too-short lengths. While he gets the ball to swing or deviate off the pitch, his deliveries mostly miss edges of bats due to lack of fuller lengths.  

His match stats of 42-16-132-3 were not impressive but he is young and has much learning to do. At least, he is fast becoming that much needed bowling all-rounder.

Marlon Samuels delivered more than 25 overs with only one wicket to show, suggesting that there is a dire need for either another functional front-line all-rounder, a better No. 4 bowler, or in desperation, a fifth bowler, for West Indies to win regularly.  

Hopefully, on Saturday, Simmons had several relaxing liquid libations for his 52nd birthday, as Ramdin and his team, did him proud.  

• Colin Croft is a former Guyana and West Indies fast bowler.

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