Winning at Oval won’t be easy
DENESH RAMDIN has lost five of his ten matches as captain of the West Indies team, and indications are that record will get worse and not better.
That’s not Ramdin’s fault, even if there can be some question marks over his captaincy, which remains defensive at times.
You do not have to be a stduent at Yale or Princeton to work out that the West Indies should not have lost the second Test in Grenada. On the crucial last day, West Indies lost eight for 83 in 30.4 overs either side of lunch, surrendering a position of relative comfort with the kind of indicipline that has unfortunately been part of their play in recent times.
Discipline, resilience and the ability to hang tough for five days are the essential components of Test cricket and the truth is, the West Indies do not have the players who can consistently grind it out session after session in the longest format of the game.
One of the biggest differences between the two teams thus far has been attitude. When last man Jimmy Anderson was run out, Joe Root slapped his bat in the ground in disgust. Root was 182 not out. Two balls after Marlon Samuels got to his hundred, he nicked a wild drive to second slip.
So while Root was hurt at not getting a double century, Samuels was satisfied at just getting a hundred.
On the last day, Anderson found the edge of Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s prod, the ball flew to Ian Bell at second slip, at waist height, who parried it up in the air – he should have caught it – and Alistair Cook grabbed the rebound at second attempt, flinging himself backwards and to his right at first slip. Further proof that England had more of a killer instinct.
The batting produces flashes of brilliance, when consistency is what is required. Darren Bravo, who came into this series with little cricket behind him, looks llke a flat track bully, while Jermaine Blackwood does not have the temperament or technique to score runs under pressure.
Samuels is an under-achiever. He made his Test debut in 2000. Australia’s Steve Smith started his career ten years after in 2010. While Samuels has seven hundreds in 57 matches, Smith has already reeled off eight in just 26 Tests.
Jamaica does not have a history of heavy-scoring batsmen. George Headley and Chris Gayle are the only men from the land of wood and water with ten tons. Unfortunately, Samuels is following the script of low production.
Kraigg Brathwaite has four Test hundreds, but it has to be a source of worry that he has now been bounced out twice on the flat, slow pitches of Antigua and Grenada. With the Australians due to play Tests in Dominica and Jamaica in June, he will have his hands full dealing with the menace of Mitchell Johnson.
No good opener is complete without the ability to hook and Brathwaite has to master this commanding shot to repel fast bowlers. Every top West Indian opener, Conrad Hunte, Gordon Greenidge and Roy Fredericks were top hookers; it is part and parcel of an opener’s armoury.
Brathwaite has the runs to make himself an integral part of the side, but the same can’t be said of the left-handed Grenadian opener, Devon Smith. He averages a woeful 24 and has been lucky to play as many as 38 matches. I don’t think he should play anymore.
Levelling the series is going to be especially tough, if you do not have the firepower to collect 20 wickets, especially when the wickets have little in them for the bowlers. Jerome Taylor was badly missed in Grenada, but the truth is, the attack was toothless with Kemar Roach nowhere near his best and Devendra Bishop lacking the variety to outfox batsmen well set.
Jason Holder, inspite of his heroics with the bat, is in the team primarily as a bowler and he is struggling to get wickets. A first change bowler in Test cricket has to be a strike bowler and he is struggling to get wickets.
The talent cupboard is bare in the region, and it has to be said that the selectors don’t have much to choose from. Whatever 11 is chosen, the West Indies are bound to have it tough this weekend at Kensington Oval where they have won just one of their last seven matches there.