Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Tony Becca | Two in a row, but at whose expense?

Published:Sunday | July 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Shannon Gabriel
Kemar Roach
Jason Holder
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The past few weeks have been refreshing ones for West Indies cricket and especially so for its fast bowlers, who, despite the opposition, should remind fans of the glory days, which so many are longing to experience once again.

First it was big Shannon Gabriel, who suggested that he has solved his problems with no-balls and direction by snaring 20 wickets in three Test matches against Sri Lanka, including an impressive five for 59 and eight for 62 runs, that was followed by an equally impressive five wickets for eight runs in five overs by Kemar Roach in the first Test against Bangladesh, and then by 11 wickets in the final Test by captain Jason Holder.

With Miguel Cummins also chipping in with useful contributions, and the debut performance of Keemo Paul, it points to an improvement in the wicket-taking possibilities of the West Indies, especially as in Roach's blitz, five wickets in 12 deliveries, Bangladesh were destroyed for a meagre total of 43 and went on to lose by an innings and 219 inside three days.

To cap it all, Bangladesh were in and out in the first innings after facing only 18.4 overs, and in the second innings, for 144 off only 40.2 overs after being at one stage 67 for seven as the Windies recorded their fifth-heaviest defeat in history.

The second and final Test also ended inside three days with victory for the Windies, and it was nice to hear Roach commending coach Corey Collymore for a job well done.

The questions, however, are these: How did the pitch play? How good were the opposing batsmen? Why did the two Test matches against Bangladesh end inside six days?

According to reports, the two pitches were friendly to fast bowlers, there was some grass around, especially at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, but as far as I am concerned, that was okay, providing it was not too much and the bounce of the ball was consistent and was left, apart from the wear and tear of the pitch, to the skill of the bowlers.

A little hometown advantage should mean something.

Speaking of the opposing batsmen, players like Tamin Iqbal, Monimul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib al Hasan, and Mahmudullah have been playing for a while now. They have made runs almost everywhere, and that means that it was not the pitches that they found difficult.

They were just not up to it. They just could not handle Roach's swing, Gabriel's pace, and Holder's bounce. Some batsmen just are not comfortable to pace. It is as simple as that.

The Bangladesh batting was simply poor. The batsmen played as if attack was the only way to bat, regardless of the situation of the game. On top of that, and like most of the West Indians, the batsmen played like beginners with no knowledge of technique.

They played beside the ball, thus missing straight deliveries. They played back when they should have played forward, and sometimes, like Roston Chase at Sabina Park, who swept at the off-spinner and was bowled middle stump, they looked unworthy of a Test cap.

 

WHAT HAPPENED?

 

These are a few questions which need answers. What happened at Sabina Park why both captains gave the impression before the match that the pitch would favour pace, why one team dropped leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo while the other played three spin bowlers, and why Bangladesh won the toss and sent the West Indies to bat thus leaving themselves to bat last, all things being equal?

Maybe nothing was wrong with the pitch. Maybe it was a case of doing what is best for your team and playing to the strength of your team. Maybe Bangladesh did not want to bat first against the West Indies pacers, and that being the case, they decided that they would prefer to bat last.

Maybe it was a simple case that whenever the West Indies batsmen faced up to the Bangladesh spinners, regardless of what the pitch was doing, the spinners would dominate the batsmen, and whenever the Bangladesh batsmen met upon the West Indies pacers they, in turn, would fail to cope, as was the case.

As it turned out, a Bangladesh spinner, Mehidy Hasan, took five wickets in the West Indies first innings; Holder ran through the Bangladesh batting in both innings; and a Bangladesh spinner, Shakib al Hasan,took six wickets in the West Indies second innings.

The West Indies batting was all wrong against the spinners of Bangladesh, and the hope now is that the players will try and improve their technique against spin bowling, that they stay focused, that they will train and practise even more, that the batsmen will be more consistent, and that the bowlers will work harder, that the fielders will get jealous, that on top of everything else, they will all remember that Sri Lanka is Sri Lanka, that Bangladesh is Bangladesh, and that there are bigger fish to fry, like India, South Africa, England, Australia, and even New Zealand.

Times have changed, but although it is good to know that players like Kraigg Brathwaite, Gabriel, Holder, and Roach, are now in cricket's Top 20 ranking, memories of the past provide some good motivation.

The West Indies must remember that once they were number one, and for a long, long time, and that they are now only back up to number eight, where they had been for a long, long time.

One month ago, the West Indies were number nine with only Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Afghanistan behind them.

The West Indies against Sri Lanka, as they were when they played the West Indies, and Bangladesh, are like a one-eyed man in a blind man's country.

Speaking of West Indies cricket and recalling memories of their illustrious past make me a disappointed man today, even though I am now somewhat happier.

I know that times have changed. I know that money is scarce these days and that it is, or it must be, difficult for a small country like Jamaica to televise cricket, or Test cricket, because of its length, but still, its absence on national television hurts, especially given that one was so used to it.

It hurts that a sport so big, or which was so big in Jamaica and the West Indies, has been removed from the people's view, or most of the people's view.

One or two of the cable channels carry it, but while the West Indies are playing, others are carrying cricket, "live" cricket at that, from all over the globe.

Money is money, business is business, but national pride is also important.

Maybe when the West Indies start to win again, to beat the good teams, especially England and Australia, cricket fans will be able to see their team in all its glory.

Everybody will be proud, including the television stations, and including the sponsors whose money is important, very important, to the process of televising cricket.