Orville Higgins | Cut the Chase
The Test series between the West Indies and Pakistan is now over, and the discussions continue in sports circles, especially as it relates to that disappointing way in which we lost the third Test, with Shannon Gabriel's wild heave off what would be his last ball being the main point of discussion.
In the context of where the game was at that time, it must be one of the most brainless actions in the history of sports. One school of thought is that Gabriel cannot be blamed, that he simply did what any No. 11 would do. It's not true.
I have watched a lot of cricket in my lifetime, and I have NEVER seen a No. 11 do anything that rash under similar circumstances. Having said that, I'm not about to blame Gabriel alone. Had any of the top-order batsmen held on for another 10 minutes, the game and the series would have been saved.
The selectors cannot escape blame, too. Selection is not the reason we are struggling in Test cricket, but if the selectors had not gone the route of picking two brand-new Test batsmen at the same time, we may have saved the series.
Even if they had decided to go with two debutants, they should never have batted Hetmyer at three. The No. 3 position is vital. You want, arguably, your best batsman here. If the team loses an opener early, the man batting one down should have the technique and temperament to weather the storm.
On the other hand, if the openers put on a decent score, the No. 3 should be able to come in and press home the advantage. Hetmyer hasn't yet demonstrated the technique or the acumen to bat at three. If the selectors insisted on having both Hetmyer and Singh in the team, they should have taken the gamble and batted Dowrich at three. Yes, I know wicketkeepers don't usually bat that high in Test cricket, but it would only be a stopgap measure.
LENGTHEN THE BATTING
Playing Bishoo for all three Tests was a mistake. He has lost his googly and was too one-dimensional with his leg breaks. For that final Test, I would have gone for a spinner who can bat. Ashley Nurse would have been my pick. Ashley should be encouraged in Test cricket. He will do no worse than some of the spinners we have been playing in the recent past, and his ability to bat will lengthen the batting.
I don't want this piece to be all about the negatives, though. The fact is that the West Indies batted virtually all of the fifth day to try and save the Test. I know of West Indies teams in the past that would have folded meekly. We pushed Pakistan both in the last series away and this one, and competed for many sessions.
The team isn't as talented as some in the past, but they are showing character. That is what I have been hoping to see. This series also saw the coming of age of Roston Chase, who averaged above 100 in the series and who now has a Test average in the high 40s. Unlike many, I wasn't surprised at his exploits. I saw it coming. It is not often that a writer gets to quote himself. Under normal conditions, I wouldn't do it. However, this time I want the readers to bear with me.
When Roston Chase made his first Test century against India at Sabina Park, I wrote this in The Gleaner on August 5, 2016. "In Roston Chase, I was impressed not only with his hundred, but his temperament. No other sport yet invented places a greater premium on concentrating for long periods under pressure more than cricket, especially when batting. ... Chase demonstrated the kind of will and nerve that are unusual for a man playing in only his second Test. His style isn't pretty. There is no flair, but he stops the good balls and has the technique to hit what he feels are the bad ones. He does all that with that nonchalant air as if he has done this all before, and there ought to be no fuss, while clearly maintaining razor-sharp focus.
"To be able to relax and concentrate hard on the job is sports' most difficult challenge. It is that single factor that determines the greats from the non-greats. Chase, in that one innings, has demonstrated that he has the aptitude for greatness. In my own optimism, I see him one day sipping nectar with the very best we have produced, and they are acknowledging that he belongs ... ."
Every word in that quote still stands. Enough said. Chase may well be the rock we need to help us climb the rankings in the future.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.