A bare sense of scale
Needing a win to share the series at Colombo, West Indies failed to top 200 in both its innings, losing the second Test match by 72 runs. After bowling out Sri Lanka for 200, West Indies faltered for a paltry 163, following which our bowlers once more rose to the occasion by dismissing Sri Lanka for yet another small total of 206. Set 244 to win, we were bundled out for 171. The sad story reminds me of what occurred during my second year at the Dominica Grammar School. The acting headmaster, the late Nathaniel Jeffers had requested students to make financial contribution towards a relief fund for St. Lucia whose capital city Castries had gone down in a catastrophic fire. At assembly, following deadline for the fund Mr. Jeffers intoned that "out of a school of 140 boys I have collected the magnificent sum of ten shillings and three pence. The more I look at you, the more I feel ashamed. Go!"
The acute pathos for the moment served to hold each of us in place, not clearly comprehending whether we were to interpret the request to depart in its literal terms. We soon got the message as to reduced ambiguity. Mr. Jeffers roared: "Go!", at which we fled from the school premises! The headmaster's censure those 68 years ago reverberated within us as if we had each one of us been fully culpable and merited chastisement with the rod.
We were boys – almost all of us fairly underprivileged and coming near the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, but we deeply felt the scorn of derision spewed out by Mr. Jeffers. Can we find similar disdain for the West Indies batsmen – men who are paid to perform? Men who go through a selection process, a preparation programme, then transported thousands of miles to represent others?
Intense gloominess of the 2nd Test scorecard reflects horrifically that Brathwaite scored 47 and 3, Hope 4 and 35, Bravo 2 and 61, Samuels 13 and 6, Blackwood 16 and 4, Ramdin 14 and 10, Holder 21 and 7, Roach 17 not out and 13, Taylor 1 and 1, Bishoo 13 (as night watchman) and 0, Warrican 1 and 20 not out. Extras accounted 14 and 11.
Humor of the whole exercise makes one wonder at the concept of employing a night watchman, since his job would be to protect valuable batsmen. The way things unfolded we ask where are the batsmen worthy of protection. In 20 appearances at the crease the so-called batsmen logged 275 runs between them. This amounts to 13.75 runs per turn at bat! Does this leave room for further comic relief?
To all intents and purposes, for want of a suitable term, the onus of responsibility must lie with the senior batsmen. Did they embrace that responsibility? Only Brathwaite, 47, Hope 35 and Bravo 61 managed to arrive at where they could have made seriously meaningful contributions. Brathwaite is a relative newcomer to the team, and Hope is newer still. It means clearly that Samuels, Blackwood, Ramdin and Bravo (in some measure) all defaulted with the bat.
Some time ago my pen rolled off a profile for payment of wages to our West Indies players according to their levels of performance. It causes me to giggle, realizing all concerned would in this instance have to end up in a deficit. Each of our batsmen would incur something of a surcharge, emphasizing stringent distaste for such shoddy batting.
Sri Lanka having foundered for 200 in the first innings, our business was simply to embark on a wholesale commitment of batting once – to the tune of 400, however lengthy the mission. This needed to be unswerving tenacity of purpose since time was never a factor in the equation. Then, the second chance afforded by being granted opportunity to make only 244 to win – with so very much time remaining, ought to have been grasped like men whose lives depended on a seizing of so wonderful a reprieve. Somehow our batsmen pushed at spin as if equipped with stiff robotic feet.
Brathwaite's 47 in the first innings took 163 minutes and utilized 101 deliveries. His colleagues needed to take note and force the Sri Lanka bowlers to bowl on our terms. No rush was needed and the dismal parade of indigent scores ought to have been avoided like the plague. There is no way under the sun the Sri Lanka spinners possessed any impenetrable disguise which could not be countered by sensible and responsible occupation of the crease.
Extreme dereliction of duty of this kind brings to mind the somewhat autocratic posture of one former African leader when he incarcerated his entire national football team after an unconscionably poor international performance. Such responses may be frowned upon as not having any place in the sporting world. But equally, too, I would insist the West Indies team performance cannot justify any outlook of tolerance on the part of any of current Caribbean political leaders! It is more than time to tell the players where they get off!
This by no means is to assume an exoneration of this West Indies Cricket Board of its responsibility in rendering the players much better equipped for the purpose of representing the Caribbean in its international engagements. A side incapable of scoring 300 in an innings at this level leaves much to be desired. That some people are able to stoop to suggesting that West Indies should opt out of Test cricket for five years or similar period does not ring honorably with me. When we ruled the cricket world other countries did not abscond. They took their licks, not liking it, they lumped it and eventually came back to offer themselves as lambs transformed into lions. Nobody can convince me West Indies are incapable of effecting the character transformation towards what we once exhibited under Worrell. First, let's make a start by reorganizing our regional tournament along appropriate lines. That there may be sociological issues to be debated and addressed is not to be ruled out. However, on the technical front West Indies is within scope of redemption – provided a coherent approach is utilized to play spin bowling.