Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Tony Becca | WI battered, bruised, and beaten

Published:Sunday | December 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Brathwaite
Kemar Roach (centre) of the West Indies celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Jeet Raval of New Zealand during their Test match at the Basin Reserve.
Shai Hope
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The West Indies ended their two-match Test series in New Zealand recently with a disappointing two-nil loss, and it means that after 17 series, the count now stands at six victories for the Windies and seven for the Black Caps, and that after 47 Test matches, it is now 15 to 13 in the Kiwis favour.

When one remembers the days when matches against New Zealand were considered "warm-up"or "warm-down" exercises for the West Indies, and that West Indies matches against Zimbabwe, once the beating stick of the West Indies and now ranked number 10 out of 10, are considered as good preparation for a series against New Zealand, ranked number four, the shoe is now really on the other foot.

Despite losing one Test by an innings and 67 runs and the other by a whopping 240 runs the West Indies started the series promisingly, or rather, hopefully, even with their up-and-down performances against weak first-class opposition.

On the day of reckoning, however, the West Indies crumbled, or rather collapsed, in spectacular fashion.

In the first Test match, on a good pitch and against an attack short of possibly its best bowler, the West Indies got away to a good start and reached 59 without loss before unexpectedly falling for 134 in 45.4 overs.

And in the second innings, after trailing by 386 runs, they fought like tigers to reach 214 for two at close on the third day and 231 for two on day four before diving to 319 all-out shortly after lunch.

The fight, however, was by Kraigg Brathwaite and Shimron Hetmeyer, who survived some anxious moments in between a few blows and batted courageously while scoring 91 and 66, respectively.

In the second Test, only Brathwaite, Roston Chase, and Raymon Reifer showed any fight against the pace and bounce of Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, and Trent Boult. The truth is, the less said about the rest of the batting, the better.

In showing little technique, little fight, and no character, none of the batsmen, with the possible exception of Brathwaite and Chase, and but for a few lovely strokes, looked fit for Test cricket. With the exception of Hetmeyer and possibly Ambris, no talk of youth and inexperience can hide that fact of their disappointing performances.

The argument of youth and inexperience may well be so if West Indians did not remember the skills and character of players of the past who performed at an early age - players like George Headley, the Three W's, Sonny Ramadhin, Alfred Valentine, Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Wes Hall, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharran, Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and a host of others.

The West Indies got beaten in every aspect of the game in New Zealand.

They were out-batted, they were out-bowled, they were out-fielded, except for one catch by Shai Hope, and they were also out-captained.

I know that sometimes it is done, but why should a West Indies team with no hostile fast bowler and no really outstanding fast bowler, go into a Test match without a spin bowler and especially so when there is one around who is one of the team's top bowlers, even based on his figures alone?

 

EMBARRASSING & SHOCKING

 

To see Chase bowling off-spin after one hour in a Test match with four pacers in the team is incomprehensible; to see Brathwaite and Chase bowling for over after over after tea on the second day in the second innings of a Test match is embarrassing; and to see Brathwaite bowling right after lunch on the first day of a Test match, with New Zealand on the ropes at 100 for three and 111 for four, and especially so when there are four fast bowlers and an off-spinning all-rounder on the field, is shocking.

In the first Test, Brathwaite and Chase were also bowling with New Zealand on 280 for six, with a debutant Tom Blundell on four; with Colin de Grandhomme going on to score his maiden century, 105 off 74 deliveries in 107 minutes; and with Blundell going on to a century in his first Test innings, 107 not out, as they posted a partnership of 148 at break-neck speed, which included a few sixes.

It was so bad that during the second Test, with Brathwaite bowling after lunch on the third day at 111 for four, commentator Ian Bishop asked, "Why is Brathwaite bowling?" To which fellow commentator Mark Richardson replied, "Because he is the captain."

When Kemar Roach replaced Brathwaite, at 145 for four, one commentator remarked: "Enough of the part-time spin. Things are getting serious again."

Those responsible for West Indies cricket must realise that Test cricket is Test cricket. It is tough cricket. It is no place for bowling no-ball after no-ball and for bowling wide of the off-stump or down the leg-side regularly.

The West Indies players must also know what is expected of them.

On top of that, the players and the management also seem to talk more than anything else.

At the end of the West Indies first innings in which Wagner terrorised the West Indies batsmen with short-pitched bowling and took seven wickets for 39 runs, the team's coach, Stuart Law, was quoted as saying: "Wagner's a funny character. He is not very tall, he's not super quick, but his bumper simply skids and it doesn't really bounce, and as a batsman, it can be off-putting.

"Some can go over your head, some just skid into your throat. So, yeah, fair to him. He bowled well and bowled aggressively. I think we helped him out with a few freebies, but all in all, New Zealand played well."

I saw, on television, a bowler who scared the daylights out of the West Indies batsmen and hit some of them as I have never seen - except on one occasion - West Indies batsmen hit before.

Captain Jason Holder, after the West Indies first innings: "We just didn't bat well. We were too indecisive, but that's cricket ... we did some good things in this Test match, so there's no need to panic ... it's only one Test match gone, so there's a chance to put things right in the second."

And acting captain Brathwaite echoed similar sentiments after the second Test, while, after the first Test, New Zealand captain, Kane Williamson, described the Windies bowling as a "good attack", and Wagner described the Windies as a "great team".

Unless my eyes deceived me, the West Indies, barring a few great players and a few brilliant performances, have not been great, or good, for some 20 years now, and this time, they were worse, or close to it.

The West Indies', or Windies, attitude towards losing needs changing. Losing is fast becoming an embarrassment.

Round two of the three-round contest is on the way, however, and in preparation for the World Cup qualifier, the Windies are chalking their cue.

Chris Gayle tuned up with a spectacular 146 not out off 69 deliveries, including 18 towering sixes, in the final of the BPL T20 league on Tuesday, and Evin Lewis appears raring to go.