Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Tony Becca | A day or two to forget

Published:Sunday | August 21, 2016 | 8:38 AM
India’s bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar (second right) is congratulated by Ajinkya Rahane (right) and other teammates after taking the wicket of West Indies’ Shane Dowrich (out of photo) during day four of their third cricket Test match at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground in Gros Islet, St Lucia, on Friday, August 12.
India’s wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha (right) stumps West Indies’ batsman Jermaine Blackwood during day five of the third Test at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground in Gros Islet, St Lucia, on Saturday, April 13.
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The fourth and final Test match between the West Indies and India is presently under way in Port-ofSpain, and without looking into the crystal ball, India may well be in their way to winning the match for a three-nil scoreline.

The question, however, is this: what happened to the West Indies in the third Test match in Castries?

Set 345 runs in 87 overs to win or draw the Test match after rain had washed out a day, the West Indies were demolished for a paltry 108 runs in 47.3 overs, in less than two sessions, before tea on the final day, to lose by 237 runs and to go two down in the contest.

And this followed after the West Indies had India on the ropes at 126 for five on the first day, and after some lovely bowling after tea which forced India to score at less than two runs an over for a while.

The West Indies, however, followed that up by losing 17 wickets for 131 runs off 63.1 overs on their way to defeat.

In the West Indies’ first innings of 225, the score was 129 for one and 202 for three before they collapsed with seven wickets falling for 23 runs in 15.4 overs.

In the second innings, they died without a fight. It was as simple as that.

Some may put it down to India’s bowling and fielding. As good as the Indians were, however, others definitely will not.

In the first innings, Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled well. He took five for 33 off 23.4 overs from some beautiful and telling swing bowling with the second new ball, including a spell of four for seven off eight overs; and spinner Ravindra Jadeja supported well with one wicket for 27 runs off 28 overs.

In the second innings, the two pacers, Kumar and Mohammad Sami, went to town, Kumar with figures of one for 13 off 12 overs, and Sami three for 15 off 11 overs.

Looking at the Test match in Kingston, one is tempted to ask what caused the difference in the performances of the West Indies batsmen on each occasion, especially on the last day of the two matches.

For a start, it was the difference in the quality, or the lack of it, of the West Indies batsmen, and the difference in the two pitches.

SWING CONSISTENTLY

The Sabina Park pitch on the last day was easy-paced, and at the Darren Sammy Stadium, Kumar, especially, got the ball to swing consistently both ways off a difficult spot for the West Indies batsmen.

The truth is that the West Indies’ performance in St Lucia once again exposed the weakness, or weaknesses, of West Indies batting.

The batsmen have a lot to learn about batting, about good batting, and about Test match batting.

The batsmen, all of them, cannot move their feet. They move their feet improperly, they do not get behind the ball often enough, they play from beside the ball even in defence, and they do not know when to play forward and when to play back.

Whenever the pitch is ‘flat’ and offers nothing to the bowler, they look good, very good. Whenever ‘something’ is in the pitch, however, they are, most times, nothing but sitting ducks, and except for the odd one or two, that has been the case over the last 20 years or so.

Except for a few, a Brian Lara or a Shivnarine Chanderpaul, it has been proven on many, many occasions.

The two senior batsmen on the West Indies team, for example, are dismissed the same way almost every time. Darren Bravo gets out caught in the slips, and Marlon Samuels gets out bowled, and bowled off stump at that.

The West Indies batsmen cannot defend their wickets, and if they cannot defend the good deliveries successfully, they will hardly ever be around to take advantage of the bad ones.

WAS UNWORTHY

I wonder sometimes, or most times, what are the four coaches on the West Indies team roster doing, what are they looking at, do they speak to the players, what are they paid for, or can they speak to these ‘superstars’ any at all?

The bosses of West Indies cricket should listen to Sanjay Manjrekar and to their captain, Jason Holder, as they speak about West Indies batting.

Speaking after the third Test collapse, Manjrekar, a former Indian batsman, said that it was unworthy of Test match cricket, and that the batsmen seldom played the line or length of the ball, and as such, never got behind the ball or seldom to the pitch of the ball.

Most of all, they should listen to Holder.

Holder, a young captain who has said he would like some day to bat up the order for the West Indies, said that the batting is not up to Test standard.

“I can’t speak for every batsman, and it is a situation where each batsman needs to cope, needs to know how we are going to score runs and how we are going to occupy the crease.”

Apart from saying that they should be held accountable, Holder also said, “It is a situation where many of us come into international cricket and are trying to learn on the job. Test cricket is far different from first-class cricket.”

Both men are right. West Indian batsmen have a lot to learn about batting, good Test match batting.

You only have to look at club cricket, and you only have to look at regional first-class cricket, and you will see the number of wickets falling in bunches, the number of teams getting bowled out for embarrassingly small scores, and the number of four-day matches finishing in two or three days on good pitches right across the region.

Something must be done about this, it must start at the school level, and it must be done quickly. That is where the coaching is most needed, that is where it will really help.

Coaching will hardly help those at the Test level, although to be honest, the West Indies batsmen seem to need it.