Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Tony Becca: Australia were simply too good

Published:Sunday | June 21, 2015 | 6:00 AM
West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood (centre) is bowled for a duck by Josh Hazelwood (out of picture) on the fourth day of the second Test between the West Indies and Australia at Sabina Park. Looking on are Australia captain Michael Clarke (left) and Shane Watson (right).
West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin (left) and head coach Phil Simmons.
1
2

The strength or weakness of West Indies cricket was well and truly exposed when Australia clobbered them left, right, and centre in the short two-Test series which ended one week ago.

A Test match, it must be remembered, is scheduled for five days and these two Test matches combined lasted for a little less than six and a half days with Australia winning one inside three days by nine wickets and the other by 277 runs after declaring their second innings closed and after losing only two wickets at that.

And it was a declaration which showed the arrogance of Australia and should have left every West Indian man, woman, and child, unhappy and truly embarrassed.

With Australia going well at 212 for two in the second innings on the third afternoon, with Steve Smith on 54 and looking as safe as a church and ready to follow his first innings 199 with another century and to join the list of "immortals" who have scored a century in each innings of a Test match, with Australia leading by only 391, and with all of two days and one hour to go in the Test match, captain Michael Clarke, to the surprise of the few spectators present, called the declaration.

That move alone showed the scant respect Australia had for West Indies cricket, especially that Australia had basically won the series by winning the first Test, and particularly that after the first over of the West Indies' second innings, the home team were reeling at one run for two wickets.

And Australia rubbed the West Indies' noses into the dirt even further when, with a few minutes to go to lunch on the fourth day, with seven second innings wickets already in the bag, and victory all but assured, they placed seven fielders between the wicketkeeper and point.

 

moments of brilliance

 

Although the West Indies had a few moments of brilliance, notably Devendra Bishoo and his six wickets for 80 runs from 33 overs in the first Test, the fourth wicket partnership of 144 between Shane Dowrich and Marlon Samuels in the second innings of the first Test, Jerome Taylor's six for 47 off 25 overs, including a spell of six overs, two wickets for no run, and day's work of three wickets for 18 runs from 15 overs, and Jason Holder's 82 not out in the first innings of the second Test, it was a case of cheese to chalk, or of big men playing against little boys at every step of the way.

With Bishoo and Taylor bowling well, Australia did have a few problems. They demonstrated their strength, however, by coming up with a man for the occasion. In the first Test, it was Adams Voges with 130 not out, and in the second Test, it was Smith with 199.

The West Indies team, especially their batsmen, were not in the same class as the Australians. Not only did they look like boys against men in the field, they appeared not ready for a confrontation of such magnitude.

The West Indies batsmen, all of them, Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope, Dowrich and Rajendra Chandrika, and even Darren Bravo, Samuels, and Jermaine Blackwood, all looked weak, and especially so in defence.

The foot movements of most of them were all wrong. It seemed as if they knew not when to go forward or when to go backward, or when to get behind the ball.

Probably, in another two to three years of learning the trade, of playing regular first-class cric-ket, and really scoring runs, they will be ready. Right now, however, they do not look like Test batsmen. And neither do most of their bowlers, who seemed unfit, something which shows up the longer the game goes on.

It is as simple as that, and no amount of window dressing, no matter how young the players are or how promising they may be, and no matter how many staffers walk around with the team, that is the gospel.

 

inexperience

 

The present predicament of the West Indies, however, is not the fault of the young players. In fact, even with so many playing little first-class cricket and showing poor first-class averages, two of them having one or two first-class centuries, one of them with no century at all, and three of them having not one Test century between them, the players are the best, or very near to the best, that the West Indies, with the possible exception of Leon Johnson, Jonathan Carter, Chadwick Waldron, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, and Sheldon Cottrell, have on call.

Apart from other missing players, like Andrew Richardson and Kieron Powell, the West Indies have suffered from the loss of players to the Indian Premier League, players like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, André  Russell, Sunil Narine, and Lendl Simmons, and although they all may not have been selected, two or three of them would have made a big difference.

A fit and ready to play Gayle as an opener, Simmons in the middle, and a cleared Narine to support the bowlers would be just what the doctor ordered.

It may not have mattered, but one must still ask the question: Why does captain Denish Ramdin give away the toss so many times?

Is it a case that he does not believe that a pitch is at its best for batting when it is first prepared, except when it is wet or otherwise impaired; is it that the West Indies attack is all spin; or is it that Ramdin believes that the team's batting is so fragile that the opposition's bowlers will destroy it in no time?

As it has been for some time, West Indies cricket has been truly exposed, and something must be done about it.

West Indies cricket needs help. It needs help in the schools, in the clubs, and up to the first-class level, and it needs it urgently.

Thank God, the usual talk of "not bowling in the right places", of "playing with pride", of "going back to the drawing board", of not "playing pressure cricket", and "the batters let us down", were not heard from the lips of the captain after the matches this time.

We did hear, however, that there "were positives we could take from the series", and that "we also had some guys who got starts, and should have capitalised, and that is something we need to correct."

Scores of 148 and 216, 220 and 114 suggest that not only did hardly anyone get a start, but that apart from captaining a Test team, the West Indies need to learn how to bat, just as they, most of them, need to learn how to bowl and how to field at the Test match level.

Test cricket, after all, is, or should be, Test cricket. It should be reserved for the best West Indian players.