“England v West Indies Test No. 1 – West Indies need some bounce in thoughts and deeds!”
By Colin E. H. Croft
Fact! I really expected West Indies to select Darren Sammy; captain; and three other faster bowlers – this time Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards – even though sensibility and conditions on Day 1 at Lords did not warrant such. West Indies really needed a spinner, any real spinner, here!
When, not surprisingly, Ravi Rampaul failed a fitness test for Test No. 1, few thought that West Indies could overlook Shane Shillingford, who had gotten ten wickets in his last Test, at home in Dominica. Yet, that is exactly what happened. Who assesses our cricket anyway? Does no-one think things out?
When West Indies batted first, I was again, with great chagrin, justified in assessments that our batsmen need psychological help. West Indies 1st innings effort was very poor indeed; 243 all out. Possibly four, certainly three wickets were gifted to the English. That should never happen at the pinnacle of cricket!
With the pitch as white as snow, and shorn so close that roots struggled to see clouded sun, the placid appearance should have given those wise-men, West Indies selectors on tour, serious cause to stop, think, and to act even, expecting little, if any, help for faster bowlers who do not get the ball to swing!
Let us start with the truth, though. I doubt much that Darren Bravo has ever read anything that I had written, much less to have noted my preview to this Test. Who knows? But, he looked fully focused for this fray. He was ready. Then, quite ignominiously, he was run out by Shivnarine Chanderpaul!
Tiger’s culpability was almost total; 95%. The run-out batsman must also take some; very slight; responsibility, for carelessness. If team-bonding practices are to be believed in professional spheres, knowing what is happening around you is the foremost requirement for symmetry and synergy too!
Chanders, for all of his batting experiences, has always been a bad runner, having been involved in many poor run-outs in his career, but perhaps none worse than on Day 1. He was actually ball-watching, not concentrating on the obvious call, then belatedly, responded, psyching out Darren Bravo to run! Poor!
That Darren Bravo run-out should not have happened on the beach, much less in a 1st Test being played by a supposedly finely honed cricket team at the head-quarters of world cricket. Yet, that was not Chanderpaul’s worse sin here. Shiv shirked some of his responsibilities when West Indies batted first.
How can the world’s best batsman, well set on more than a half-century, allow rank tail-enders like Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards to face that many deliveries, then get out, while he stood and watched from the non-striker’s end? Can it be that he only thought of getting another century; his 2nd; at Lords?
There were crowd suggestions on Day 2 that Chanders was being selfish. I would accept that for some reason he lost his, and his team’s plot. West Indies should only have lost six wickets on Day 1, which, in turn, might have helped Shiv himself, with proper partners, Day 2, to get to that 2nd hundred at Lords.
Shiv was responsible for the loss of three wickets on his own while at the crease! The fourth “gift’ to England was Adrian Barath’s wicket. Just when one thought that Barath had heeded Sir Everton Weekes’ warning, he plays wide and airily to gully, to be brilliantly caught by Jimmy Anderson.
Sir Vivian Richards, Corey Collymore, Michael Holding, Brian Lara and yours truly, former West Indian players who were present on Day 1, were all terribly disappointed at West Indies’s showing with the bat. Everyone hoped, more than expected, West Indies to come out with steeled attitudes! Not this time!
But it was West Indies cricketing visage that was so disappointing. Except for Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels and Fidel Edwards, the rest of West Indies team are under 30. Most of them moved around like they were just under 300, years or perhaps kilograms. They were so lethargic! Where is that bounce?
To listen to Sir Viv suggest that he has never seen a West Indies cricket team look so bedraggled and disinterested on only a 2nd day of a Test match, when England took hold of the game with classic batsmanship, was especially disheartening. Remember, this was only Test No. 1, with two still to go!
To hear Jonathan Agnew, BBC Test Match Special front-man, ask pertinent, searching questions about Ottis Gibson’s almost invisible influence on the non-improvement of the thinking processes of the captain and bowlers, point exactly to the problem. The mind-set of this team has gone nowhere up!
England bowling attack is potent, competent and professional, supposedly the finished product started by Gibson. Is it that he has taken on so much of the over-seeing West Indies that he may have neglected his basic duties as a former Test bowler too? West Indies bowlers looked terribly under done!
Meanwhile, Jimmy Anderson, now that problems with injuries have been conquered, is the best of England’s bowlers, deserving all accolades recently received. He has always known how to swing the ball normally, with the added ability now to effect “reverse swing” when the ball becomes 30 or so overs old. He augments those with patience, what the Americans call “attitude”, and massive maturity!
I admire Stuart Broad immensely for his “chutzpah”. He is as arrogant as a bull dog, with good reason! As Mohammed Ali used to say, “It is not arrogance if it is true!” Broad gives no quarter, expects none.
That, incidentally, for those who do not remember, so long ago has it been, is what West Indian fast bowlers used to be like in the way distant past! Remember, we were even called terrorists!
Broad, a throw-back of Dennis Lillee and Andy Roberts, is an outstandingly thoughtful fast bowler. Both he and Anderson assessed Lords immediately to be slower than it should have been, and adjusted their bowling speed to be most effective; to get the right swing. They got it from that decrease in speed!
Andrew Strauss’ 6th century at Lords on Friday afternoon was a joy to behold. This was a guy under real pressure, from his own press, to perform. He was playing at home, not only in England, but at the home of his county, Middlesex. The atmosphere was electric, yet reserved. No-one knew what to expect.
Strauss delivered! The deft touch of a left-hander, placement of a surveyor, acute marksmanship of a sharpshooter, all were present, coupled with a determination that would have made Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay, Mount Everest’s first conquerors, extremely proud. Strauss was solid!
England’s body language at the start of this important series for both teams suggests that they are confident but wary. Getting to Number 1 is the easy part. Staying there takes much more effort!
West Indies cannot complain about conditions. This is part of the process of becoming wizened souls. They must exist then exude in every part of world cricket if they are to have some resurgence of the excellence that abided in the past. For that to happen, they must endure, be alive, and bounce! Enjoy!