Don't blame it entirely on the cold
Published: Sunday | May 24, 2009
As people born and bred in the Caribbean Isles and Guyana, the West Indies cricketers are accustomed to hot and brilliant sunshine, and it must have been difficult, very difficult and particularly so to catch the ball - to produce their best in the bitter and biting cold which they experienced during the two-match Test series in England.
That, however, was no excuse for the poor performances of the West Indies batsmen, probably more so for the poor performances of the West Indies bowlers, and definitely so not for the results which saw the West Indies losing both matches, one by 10 wickets inside three days, and one, despite losing one entire day due to rain, by an innings and 83 runs mid-way the fifth and final day.
Cricket, historically, is played in England from as early as the end of April, and although it was early for a Test match in England, even though it was difficult for the West Indies, the West Indies cricketers are professionals and should have performed better - especially so with the bat and probably so with the ball.
The West Indies cricketers are not Eskimos. Without gloves it must have been difficult for them to catch the ball and to grip it with frozen fingers, and that probably is why they dropped so many catches - including six after tea on the opening day of the contest.
It was also, probably, why the bowlers, and especially so Lionel Baker, bowled so many wide, harmless deliveries and pitched the ball so short so often.
Apart from the dropped catches in the first Test, however, the reason why England's batsmen were able to dominate the West Indies bowling, to score 377, 32 without loss, and 569 for nine declared, was because the West Indies bowling, with the exception of Fidel Edwards, was simply not up to scratch.
Not good enough
One reason was because Jerome Taylor was below his best, another was because Baker, in my opinion, is and was simply not good enough, and still another was because Sulieman Benn, who probably could not grip the ball, did not spin the ball enough.
There was one other reason, however, and that probably had to do with the attitude of the bowlers and the preference of the tour selectors.
According to everyone, the pitches were slow, the ball bounced low, and apart from the first innings of the first Test when Edwards picked up six wickets, apart from a few overs to James Anderson when Edwards let it rip and scared the daylights out of the England night-watchman, although the England bowlers got the ball to bounce and peppered the West Indies batsmen in both matches, the West Indies pacers appeared to have surrendered - to have just gone through the motions while allowing England's batsmen to enjoy themselves.
The world has produced some great fast bowlers of average height, of less than average height, and when one remembers the likes of Ray Lindwall and Malcolm Marshall, there can be no question about that.
The majority of the great fast bowlers, however, have been tall men, some of them have been big men, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft, plus one like Sylvester Clarke, one like Courtney Walsh, and one like Curtly Ambrose, for example, were tall men, some were big men, and that, probably, was the reason why England's batsmen had it so easy, and why, apart from the other inefficiencies, the West Indies batsmen found it so difficult to survive much more to dominate.
While the West Indies bowlers were all of average height, below average height, and could hardly get the ball to bounce higher than the batsman's knees, the England bowlers, with Tim Bresnan standing at six feet one inch, Graham Onions at six feet two inches, Anderson at six feet two inches, and with Stuart Broad at six feet five inches, were all tall and big men who harassed the visiting batsmen.
The selectors may well have slipped in Andrew Richardson over Baker.
Even though they are not Eskimos, the cold was no excuse for the failure of the batsmen.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul is good, or is usually good for all seasons, Christopher Gayle is exciting on his day, and Ramnaresh Sarwan is in between.
In England, cold or not so cold, Gayle and Sarwan are touch and go and always will be, cold or not, the others, Devon Smith, Lendl Simmons, Brendon Nash and company, because of their technique, are easy meat for the England bowlers, probably but for young Simmons they will always be so, and but for a few good innings, one by Nash, one by Denesh Ramdin, and one by Sarwan, everything fell into place - almost as expected.
Against England a few months ago at home, with the tail showing some fight to save the team on two occasions and in doing so protected a one-nil lead, the West Indies batting showed some guts. In England, however, it was the same old story all over again.
In the first Test, after sprinting to 46 without loss and to 93 for three, the West Indies lost seven wickets for 53 runs in 13.1 overs while crashing to 152; in the second innings, they stumbled to 75 for five before Nash and Ramdin pulled them to 256; and in the second innings of the second Test, they lost seven wickets for 35 runs in 13.4 overs as they tumbled from 141 for three to 176.
Shorter the match the better
Fortunately for the West Indies, the three-match one-day series could be a different story.
Apart from the fact that one-day contests are shorter, apart from the fact that the shorter the match the better it is for the weaker team, and apart from the fact that in recent times the West Indies have performed better in one-day cricket than in Test cricket, the West Indies team should be better than England.
England, it should be remembered, are without Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. The West Indies, on the other hand, will be parading not only batsmen Sarwan and Chanderpaul, bowlers Edwards and Taylor, not only Dwayne Bravo as batsman, bowler, and fielder, but also the dangerous Gayle - the magnificent hitter of the ball who, apart from being at his best, is at home in this version of the game.