Reconstruction, Renovation & Restructuring of a West Indies Test Performance
It is customary now to hear the roundly uttered castigation that the West Indies team should be dumped en bloc. This is the overall sweep of the paintbrush now beginning to gather regional stamp of approval. But before jumping to extreme finality it may be useful to identify what and how the team should attempt in the hope of doing better. At least, the incoming players would acquire a clearer idea analytically of where current members of the team failed against Australia, and what would be expected of any replacements, cycled or recycled.
In analysis of the situation I would focus on the 2nd Test match played in the Boxing Day period at Melbourne. It came in the wake of the introductory shock of the Hobart opener which Australia won by an innings after losing only three wickets. After seeing how Australia batted to 583 for 4 declared it was extreme folly to win the toss and invite them to bat. At Hobart we lost in three days. Our immediate concern at Melbourne should have been a serious attempt to get in an extra day and a half of batting under our belts. Anyway, we sent Australia in and they gorged themselves to 551 for 3. The clear indication was not only that Australia really could bat – as if there was any doubt about this – but they gave further emphasis of the extreme innocuousness of the West Indies bowling. We have neither pace nor spin of any real consequence. In this department we are horridly inept. There is no incisiveness, no strength, no stamina, no consistency.
Any case to be made does not argue volumes about our batting. At least, not in the absolute sense of fundamental competence! Apart from the grave generality of blasphemously stating that all teams are equal in that they have eleven men per side, I would avouch the weaker side has nothing to gain in making itself the sillier unit. And with this relates in great measure to the business of batting. You don't have to be stronger. However you need to prepare better and to avoid giving way to inane stupidity.
Australia made 551 for 3 in 135 overs. In case this is not abundantly clear, they made it in 810 balls or approximately 4.08 runs per over. They occupied the crease for a day and a session and a half or thereabout. Let's recall how West Indies approached their task. We were quickly 83 for 6. Kraigg Brathwaite 17, Chandrika 25, Samuels 9, Blackwood 28, Ramdin 0, Holder 0. Such was the sad story at stumps on the second day in all of 43 overs of putrid disaster!
And what really can be written into the lines of this scenario? Little, really, except that a monstrously ugly weakness of poor foot movement had beset our batsmen. Chandrika and Samuels plodded forward to Pattinson as if their back foot was weighted down, resigning them to the pacer as easy victims of LBW. Blackwood's naiveness was of a kind expected to have been exorcised far earlier even in schoolboy cricket. He dutifully used his feet to Nathan Lyon's off spin to hoist him for six – only to discard the elementary principle that the slow bowler would automatically offer similar – but not exactly - the same bait. Blackwood renamed himself "blockhead" by abandoning due watchfulness and carelessly again going for the drive to sacrifice his wicket caught and bowled Lyon for 28.
There are those who will commend Lyon for "an excellent piece of bowling". Not me! Blackwood deserved to be flogged severely. One does not need to travel more than half way around the world to be impressed with straightforward common-sense. In the first Test you sullied the scorebook with a pair of ducks. If then you are a batsman of any consequence, and are blessed with minor mathematics, you would realize that only a score of 150 would lift your average to 50. Top batsmen do not aid the opposition by gifting them with softest of dismissals.
Darren Bravo, our centurion of the first Test, was still in occupation of the wicket and Blackwood and himself were mandated to move the score on from 82 for 3 to something like at least another 300 before loss of the 4th wicket. Let it not be forgotten that Australia in the earlier Test were 121 for 3 before recovering to 570 for 4. They did not do this via a few ill conceived swipes. The approach was to put their heads down and wait for the loose deliveries.
The less said about Ramdin and Holder the better. Rigor mortis had enslaved their lower extremities. However, more than ever, something must be forcibly pushed into the head of Carlos Brathwaite to the extent that he would cease to spurn the amorous advances of Lady Luck. With the score on 156 for 7 he received a fabulous reprieve when an electronically detected "no ball" came to light after he had fallen caught while attempting to hook off Pattinson. Like Blackwood, Brathwaite had Lyon's name appended to his dismissal. He succumbed for 57 caught and bowled at 173 for 7 instead of proceeding to put on 100 more.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the pitch, and Australia's captain Steve Smith saw the need to bat again, declaring at 179 for 3 and offering a 460-run target.
Far from benefitting from the self inflicted mishaps for their first innings, West Indies made it very much the same in their second effort. Admittedly Holder and Ramdin helped themselves to half centuries, 68 and 59 respectively. But this was ample indication that, with a modicum of rational organization, both could have chalked up centuries – just as Bravo and Carlos Brathwaite could have done in the first innings, we lost again, this time by 170 runs.
Much currency is given to the fact that not many, if any, of our players are currently engaged in English County cricket, something of evidence in support of West Indies poverty in international arenas. I hasten to add: we beat England when we had no players playing in that country. And some of our key men who later played there were world class before going to the U.K and had already proved it by scoring Test centuries and even double and triple centuries.
Each and every player selected to represent West Indies has patent responsibility to work sensibly and hard to lift his game. If not out of pride, at least there is much elevation in earning power to be had from sterling performances. In the long run it is the West Indies Cricket Board who must take the blame for the insipidly sorry state of our cricket. You must know what is wrong. You must clearly point the finger at it and see that corrective measures are applied vigorously.