Laurie Foster | A tough test for the Windies
In just over a week, the West Indies will be starting another home Test series, this time against India. It will be the second one in succession, having got the better of England by two to one earlier in the season.
It will be two Test matches, as no longer do encounters of a longer duration seem to be viable when foreign teams visit our shores. England is at number-four ranked on the ladder of countries, while India is at the top position. That alone should inform that the task to equal the performance against the Three Lions will not be an easy one.
Having said that, the West Indies is looking to be a better side in the longest format and their supporters will be hoping that the squad selected will be able to do the job. The selectors should be commended for resisting the suggestion made by veteran opening batsman and former captain Chris Gayle, to give him the final Test at Sabina Park, his home ground, where he would say a final farewell to the game.
This would have been a retrograde step, despite the tremendous contribution which Gayle has made during his career. The fact that he has not appeared at the Test level in almost five years, makes the suggestion that more intolerable.
But that aside, the question is asked, to whom will the West Indies look to mount a challenge against Virat Kohli’s men?
The 13-man squad named is Jason Holder (capt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rakheem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach.
It is difficult to expect that whichever members are chosen, will form a team formidable enough to maintain the record that was established against the Englishmen. Another matter to be queried is the inclusion of Darren Bravo, whose lack of form, for a player with his ability, remains a matter of deep concern. It is unfortunate that the structure of domestic cricket does not allow a player in a similar situation to play first -class cricket and get back in the groove for the higher level.
The home team will have to depend on new boy Campbell, Brathwaite, Hope, Hetmyer, and regular century scorer Chase, to post the bulk of the runs to prevent India from steamrolling the local team. The likely problem will be that there is not a lot of experience there to face up to the Indians whose attack contains a number of bowlers of real pace in addition to the traditional spin.
The upcoming series will mark the West Indies entry into the Test match championships. It is not looking to be a happy one, unless something can be pulled out of the bag but which is not now apparent. One of the things that is usually said when a team falls into such a seemingly hopeless situation, is that we have to look to the youngsters. But is this really an option? There is very little coming from that area which can give hope, as far as resurgence of talent is concerned. The inescapable truth is that, despite the good showing in the series against England, the West Indies is not unearthing the players in whom confidence can be built when it goes up against the other Test-playing countries.
The recently formed Cricket West Indies administration with Kittitian Ricky Skerritt at the helm, came to power among widespread criticism of their predecessors led by Dave Cameron. A lot was promised and, by extension, a lot is expected of the new group if further disappointments are to be averted. Whatever is the plan, and one only hopes that there is one, it will take a lot of funds to start the machinery rolling. A diligent search for same, through sponsorship or other sources, should have already been on.
West Indies cricket needs help, as it seems to have hit a roadblock, which requires a brand new attitude and approach at all levels. One hopes that the recently elected regime can meet the requirements that are necessary to make it happen.
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