Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Tony Becca | Limping West Indies fall one behind

Published:Sunday | July 31, 2016 | 7:22 AM
India’s bowler Ishant Sharma (centre), is congratulated by teammates after dismissing West Indies’ Kraigg Brathwaite during day three of the first cricket Test match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua.
India's captain Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a double-century against the West Indies in the first Test.
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Somewhere before this four-match Test series between the West Indies and India ends, sometime before August 22 or there about, the home team's bowlers, including messrs Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Carlos Brathwaite, may dismiss the visitors for below 500 runs in an innings.

With cricket being the game that it is, anything is possible. Instead of batting normally and improving their stats, batsmen like Murali Vijay, Shikkar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinka Rahane, and the gifted Vijay Kohli may get careless, play rash strokes, and get out unexpectedly.

Not only could the West Indies jump for joy if they manage to dismiss India for below 500, especially here at Sabina Park, but God's willing, or as the Indians and the Pakistanis would say, "inshalla", their three-man pace attack, after nearly 60 Test matches between them and just about 36 wickets also between them, after playing almost twice the number of matches to the number of wickets taken between them, may have another reason to celebrate.

Holder, Carlos Brathwaite and according to reports, and the evidence of his pace, the improving Gabriel may also achieve the so far impossible, for them, five-wicket haul in a Test innings.

India are one-up after one Test match, and despite the possibilities of batsmen Daren Bravo and Marlon Samuels, it may be, barring rain, and plenty of it at that, four-nil when the series is all over.

 

Cricketing miracle

 

The West Indies team, even with Devendra Bishoo, just do not look capable of bowling out India. In fact, they do not, barring a cricketing miracle, appear capable of winning a Test match.

In fact, according to evidence of their absence, it does not matter to the people.

While India were marching untroubled to their huge first innings total before empty stands in Antigua - England, who were one down in the contest, were enjoying themselves before a full house at home in Manchester against Pakistan.

What that meant was that the West Indies did not even have a "12th man", except for the commentators who kept talking and talking, may be tongue in cheek, about the "decent" West Indies bowling and about their "long" batting line-up with Brathwaite and Holder down to come in at numbers eight and nine.

The batting strength of a team, however, is usually talked about from top to bottom,and not from the bottom to the top.

India won the Test match by an innings inside four days, and it was the biggest win by India outside Asia.

The result was not surprising. What was surprising was that the West Indies, apart from the first 30 minutes or so, never looked like competing.

As it turned out, the West Indies batting was weak, very weak. Apart from Bravo and Samuels, and possibly Kraigg Brathwaite, none of the West Indies batsmen, not one of the first six in the order, looked worthy of their places.

Kraigg Brathwaithe still looks like a boy playing with men.

The batsmen appeared tentative. They played away from their bodies, they attacked when they should have defended and they defended when they should have attacked.

Sometimes, however, they attempted to bat like men who could bat, to impress the few people around, and paid the price of trying to do what they could not do.

The batting, however, was not what caused the West Indies to lose the Test match. That was only the final straw, and as disappointing as was Shane Dowrich's dropped catch, it was also only one of the reasons.

The real reason, apart from the overall difference in both teams, was the make-up, the selection of the team.

As happened when Darren Sammy was the captain of the team, the team was one man short.

 

Woefully weak

 

At first sight, the West Indies team looked as good a unit as possible, but later on, it looked woefully weak, especially the bowling, and especially against a team as gifted with quality batsmen as India.

The West Indies, probably scared of their batting, or probably afraid to leave out Carlos Brathwaite after his heroics in a couple matches in Australia and then in the Twenty20 World Cup, and obviously not prepared to omit their captain, selected both Holder and Carlos Brathwaite and left the attack, but for Gabriel, without any bite, without any real pace against a set of Indian batsmen.

Holder and Carlos Brathwaite can both bat a bit, but the team needed another fast bowler, not a man who can support the batsmen down at numbers eight and nine when, most times, it is too late in any case.

Instead, the West Indies faced Kohli and company with one fast bowler, two medium pacers, and a right-arm leg-spinner plus the relatively unknown quality of batsman Roston Chase's friendly off-spin bowling in his debut appearance.

To top it all, while Gabriel, the West Indies fastest bowler, was treated with kid's gloves, Bishoo, the right-arm leg-spinner, the wrist spinner, was bowled into the ground, no doubt in the hope of getting a wicket.

The batting, especially Rajindra Chandrika, Jermaine Blackwood and Chase, needs attention by the selectors, but it is the bowling which needs their attention urgently.

The players do not seem to be available, and the selectors' job is not easy. They have to look hard and do some homework, however. With a regional competition on, they should not have to do this, but they may have to take a chance to find at least one more bowler of speed, and skill, to lead the attack, or else.

That is not easy, and regardless of all the complaints about the board, and about the selectors, the players need to buckle down and train and practice "till the cows come home", every day, not only when the coaches are around but all the time so that the selectors will have some really good players from which to select.

It is good to see that the selectors have added, as young as Alzaari Joseph may be, a genuinely fast bowler to the squad. The fans need to see something happening in order to "rally 'round the West Indies".