“England v West Indies – Lords Cricket Ground – Test No. 1 – Nowhere to hide anymore!”
Colin E. H. Croft
To paraphrase 41st President of USA, George Herbert Walker Bush, better of two Bushes who were
USA Presidents, who would be better remembered had it not been for his immediate successor, William Jefferson Clinton; “West Indies are in very deep doo-doo!”
To say that West Indies’ preparation, physical and mental, for Test No. 1 next Thursday at the very picturesque Lords Cricket Ground, have been shambolic is like confirming that interestingly warm rain will continue to fall in United Kingdom. Those are bare facts!
Three selected players, Marlon Samuels, Assad Fudadin and Narsingh Deonarine not joining the squad until more than a week into the tour had elapsed is also fact, but I would not blame West Indies’ organization too much for this. There is very much happening in United Kingdom now!
For London 2012 Summer Olympic Games, officially “The Games of the XXX Olympiad” – ‘XXX’ means 30 and does not refer to adult sexual content – even with blanket television coverage planned, there would be in excess of 30,000 overseas press representatives in UK to cover the games!
Add industrial manifestations at every inbound facility and extremely stringent immigration, customs and security circumstances of getting into United Kingdom these days, to understand and appreciate that West Indies touring squad was simply caught up in the massive melee.
People have been pouring into London like its proverbial rain. London’s major airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead and London City – are bursting at the seams. Last week I had to go to France by fast train. Even trains from Europe are filled to capacity!
West Indies’ squad was only selected three weeks ago, after Australia’s tour to West Indies ended. It sometimes takes three months to get required visas to get into especially United Kingdom now, with security requirements for Olympics!
Whatever, West Indies are still in deep trouble! Immediate polar changes from 25 degree Centigrade ranges in the Caribbean, to temperatures nearing zero degrees C in United Kingdom would not have helped players who have not played much in the cold!
Back in the day when every player in West Indies touring teams to England were also plying their trades for counties, that transition was easily completed. With so few West Indians operating in England anyway – none selected are officially with counties this year – it would always have been very difficult.
In its first game v Sussex, more than seven-eights washed out, West Indies did just enough in 34 overs played – 90 for 3 – to suggest that they are not only going to struggle with coming to terms with weather but with bowlers’ moving deliveries too.
At time of writing, in its 2nd game, a four-day fixture v England Lions, West Indies had already lost 13 wickets, while still being way behind England Lions’ 341. In its 1st innings, only Darren Bravo, 51, and Marlon Samuels, 32, looked fairly organized, West Indies making 147 all out!
By the time you read this, West Indies could well have already lost, in three of four days, to England Lions. If that becomes reality, then that bodes even worse as to what could transpire at Lords. Let us hope that West Indies survives well and shows needed fortitude for Test No. 1!
West Indies team for that Test on Thursday could be interesting. There are so many questions that Robert Haynes, West Indies selector on tour, Coach Ottis Gibson and Captain Darren Sammy are probably having severe headaches already, the tour having only just begun!
Gibson is on record saying that “last time we played at Lords, I was in England’s camp – Bowling Coach – that game lasting two and half days. Let us hope we can carry Test No. 1 into its fourth day.” For West Indies to last four or five days in Tests in England, its batting will have to click immediately, if not sooner!
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, herculean in his spare self, is the least worry of all, even though he did have his hand damaged in that warm-up game v Sussex. He will play even if his hand has to be amputated! A present West Indies batting line-up without Shiv is simply unthinkable!
Denesh Ramdin is certain too. Hopefully, he will break nothing. He seems very injury prone nowadays. His presence, as wicket-keeper, is as massive a cog in this untried cricket wheel as the fulcrum of tried and tested cantilevered “London Eye”, Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel! Denesh must move well too!
Darren Bravo has probably adopted better than anyone, his only two innings to date 19 not out and 51. As former England all-rounder Derek Pringle, writing for London Telegraph newspapers suggested, “Bravo, who clearly shares the DNA crucial to batting of his cousin, Brian Lara, unfurled some spectacular drives to the boundary off back foot and front!”
However, also confirming my assessment of Darren a few weeks ago, after Australia’s tour, Pringle went further: “Another pleasant drive brought his 50, followed by a horrible miscued hack, to be caught at mid-on.” Darren Bravo has the tools. Now, he needs that utmost concentration to display them well!
Marlon Samuels has looked very organized and will play. His laconic appearance, experiences and maturity must now, more than ever before, portray that steely determination that he must have, to have come through his perils and allegations in recent years.
Oh, for Chris Gayle to be one opener come Thursday! Adrian Barath and Kieran Powell have shown much immaturity and susceptibility to swinging balls, edging regularly and being ‘Leg Before Wicket’ (LBW), distinct signs of not knowing where to, and how, the ball is moving. Both will probably play!
Kemar Roach, “Colossus of the Caribbean”, will again have to carry West Indies bowling attack on his relatively small but obviously strong shoulders. Much depends on his fitness and form if West Indies are to be anywhere near surprising England this series. Roach’s total heath is absolutely vital in this tour!
Though rested in that 4-day game against England Lions, Darren Sammy will definitely play at Lords. His inclusion would probably come at the expense of off-spinner Shane Shillingford, as West Indies batting needs as much bolstering as it can get for this 1st Test and beyond. Conditions are also quite wet!
Because of that batting need, Narsingh Deonarine might still be considered, even if he has not yet played a game in England this time. Last time West Indies played a Test, against Australia, his batting and bowling featured heavily. With probably no Shillingford, Deonarine will probably make Test No. 1.
The two Edwards, Fidel and Kirk, are West Indies biggest problems. Fast bowler Fidel is still not 100% fit, so his place can be taken by Ravi Rampaul, who has bowled well in his outing to date, while batsman Kirk looks so much out of touch that only bare necessity and numbers allow him to be selected at all.
My XII for Test No. 1: Darren Sammy, Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Shiv Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Denesh Ramdin, Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul. Come Thursday next, these will have to produce the goods. There is nowhere to hide! Enjoy!