“Take that! All is quiet on the West Indies front!
Colin E. H. Croft
“Nothing succeeds like success!” “The best way to speak in cricket, as a batsman, is to let your
bat do the talking by making runs!” “I told you so!” “We are better than people give us credit for!” “He who laughs last, laughs best!” “This is our time now!” “We know that we can represent our people well!”
The clichés that could be attributed to West Indies cricket team in England are endless. Now, Darren Sammy and Ottis Gibson may be having the last, and best, laugh! Both should be very pleased with West Indies’ showing in the Test series against England so far; beaten in Test No. 1, but not disgraced!
After West Indies had ignominiously lost its last warm-up game before Test No. 1, beaten by England Lions, effectively England “A”, the future looked quite bleak for the tourists. It seemed as if they would simply succumb to No. 1 rated England with little more than an extremely quiet whimper.
The attitude of many in England was that it would have been a miracle for West Indies to survive to Day 5, at Lords, for Test No. 1. Scribes and other associated personnel made plans for Days 4 and 5 of that Test. In truth, if Kemar Roach had real help in that 2nd innings, West Indies could have won Test No. 1!
In Test No. 2, after being 136-6 at one time, to end Day 1 at 304-6, West Indies staged a recovery that has not been seen since the 1970’s. When India toured West Indies in 1971, Dilip Sardesai, India’s ‘Renaissance Man’, one of India’s premier batsmen back then, and Eknath Solkar, a bustling, effervescent all-rounder, regularly rescued India, allowing them to beat West Indies, first time ever; 1-0.
One of the best attributes of any developmental situation, an aspect that signifies positive progress in any sports team, is that every time that team plays, there should be a better performance than the last. In England, despite a frigid start, both personal and weather-wise, West Indies have done exactly that!
Another such element is resilience. Whatever one may say about this West Indies cricket team, no-one can denigrate its industry and effort. Some players may simply not be up to standards that many have come to expect from West Indies teams, but they do try really hard, none more so than the captain himself, Sammy, West Indies’ ‘Renaissance Man’. He continues to be always positive!
West Indies in 2012 are rescuing themselves, not only in Tests, but for their very reputations too. After the showing against Australia, losing 2-0, decidedly fighting to the very last man, it is obvious that West Indies is on the up-and-up. All that is needed now is a proper, productive, winning combination!
The rhetoric about absences of Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and others has been most vile and pointed. Sammy and Gibson are thinking, with a wry smile, I am sure, if not openly saying; “Take that!”
Recent weeks of this tour were filled with interviews. Chief Executive Officer of West Indies cricket, Dr. Ernest Hilaire, suggested that the plan for present-day senior West Indies cricket is that the players try to become a star team, one that could perform consistently well, not just a team of stars!
One of those so-called stars, Sarwan, also gave a seriously sad interview, one that must have come from his heart’s deepest hole, informing that elements inside West Indies cricket have been very responsible for his present sabbatical into county cricket, and his non-inclusion in recent West Indies cricket teams.
Combine those with the fact that had all top-class West Indies cricketers been available, this West Indies team to England could, probably would, have been awesome, and all could understand the frustrations.
After all, had Gayle, Sarwan, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, even Kieron Pollard, been fully available for this tour, England could have been the ones looking to take refuge in reflective rhetoric!
Easily the biggest bug-bear of West Indies in England has been the continued failure of the top four batsmen. While it is true that you cannot win a Test on the first day, you certainly can start to lose it, from Day 1, if batsmen do not produce runs for the bowlers to defend. Our batsmen need big scores!
Adrian Barath has already found out that general catching at this level is way above what he would have expected in West Indies regional cricket. Just look at that stunning one-handed catch taken by Jimmy Anderson, no less, in the slip cordon, to effect Barath’s dismissal, off Stuart Broad!
Darren Bravo looks absolutely terribly out of sync. His feet look like lead when he is at the crease. Already in half; three; of the six innings that he would have in this series, Bravo has failed. Rapidly, his opportunities to impress on this Test tour are being erased. He must get many runs very soon indeed!
Fellow commentator and former West Indies fast bowler, too, Michael Holding, lamented, during Test No. 2, that Bravo has not yet shown – emphasis on ‘yet’ – what he really could do. All are patiently, but quite restlessly, awaiting Bravo’s advent. Reputations do not make runs. Cohesive batting does!
If Bravo is bad, then Kirk Edwards is worse. His deterioration has been unbelievable. Being a former Test bowler, Edwards looks like a walking wicket every time he takes guard. He is so square at the crease; “falling over”; to effect strokes to leg, that he leaves spaces in his defence that cars could pass through, much less deliveries from England’s very skilled bowlers!
Kieron Powell is suffering more from lack of experience than anything else. He has the skills, and with proper tutelage, could actually become a competent opening batsman for West Indies in the future. Luckily, at least, he has time!
The failure, though, of Barath, Powell, Bravo and Edwards has put great pressures on the most experienced batsmen in the team, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels. Fortunately, both have risen to that challenge, and have papered over, for the time being, the failures of other batsmen.
Strangely, the quiet is becoming absolutely deafening, especially from the critics of West Indies cricket. Lords was sold out for the first four days, suggesting that fans are quickly realizing that this West Indies are up for that fight, and as Sir Winston Churchill suggested in WW-II, ‘We shall never surrender!”
Even Day 5 at Lords, and, now, with the glorious summer sun finally out at Trent Bridge, the cricket has been fully attended and appreciated. More than anything else, West Indies have showed that they are in England to play the best cricket that they can muster. To date, Sammy and Samuels, with their respective highest Test scores, are showing what effort and resilience can produce!
Sammy had given an undertaking, a promise even, that West Indies could win Test No. 2 in Nottingham. There is yet a long way to go, but at the very least, he has put his money, and his bat, where his mouth has taken him. So too has the more mature Samuels. Now, all that is needed is that victory. Enjoy!