Says Colin E. H. Croft
Happy Christmas 2014! Like West Indies in South Africa, try to be safe. If unsure, abort!
WI’s Christmas dinner in SA would probably not taste as well as it should, after Test No. 1, but they could taste, sparingly, of SA’s absolutely magnificent wines. Remember, Test No. 2 starts on Boxing Day!
But, as Jim Belushi also suggested in that great 1980’s comedy ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’, and I always reiterate too; “When all else fails, start drinking heavily!” This is as good a time for that as any!
Anyway, it is normal, even when WI was at the very top of its game in 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, to start especially a 1st Test of any series conservatively, for any team would hope to learn on-tour conditions.
However, as adroitly suggested in my preview of this SA v WI series last week, when I highlighted five bowlers, WI selected one bowler too few, only four, and one batsman too many, for Test No. 1 v SA.
Over the last decade or so, WI have started Tests concentrating on not losing instead of being aggressive and able enough to think about winning. To those who played in that golden era, that is a concept that is still hard to fathom. Winning was; always should be; the main objective!
On a hiding to nothing, as suggested by pundits, WI should have come out punching above its weight, purposeful and aggressive, with five bowlers instead of standard four, taking the attack to SA.
That is the only way to try to derail SA; get wickets at regular intervals. WI cannot out-bat SA!
This reasoning takes on even more importance since three of the four bowlers had to be faster bowlers, and, as is well known, to win any Test, the victorious team must take twenty wickets.
But one also has to be very realistic. Any four of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, yours truly, Malcolm Marshall, Sylvester Clarke and Wayne Daniel, or Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop, were not available, so one has to make do with what one has for selections.
Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell and Suleiman Benn make a decent bowling attack, but probably not one to have had SA shaking in their socks.
Instead, SA’s batsmen filled their boots with runs galore, ending up much more like a long practice batting session than WI would want to accept!
WI were bound to find out that SA’s batting, on the best batting strip in South Africa – Centurion – would have been awesome, even with SA’s two greatest recent run-getting luminaries, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, now permanently absent; fully retired!
Alviro Petersen, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, the indomitable Hashim Amla, unbelievably talented AB de Villiers, debutant Stiaan van Zyl and wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock still present a formidable batting line-up for the hosts. Only four WI bowlers for this long line-up were asking for trouble from the get-go.
As none of WI’s bowlers had had what can be thought of as a “good roll-out”, proper preparation games under their belts, as suggested by Chief Selector Clive Lloyd, that are really needed to get into especially bowling rhythm, then work-loads were bound to be high. Hence injuries could occur!
Roach has been good for WI, and Taylor, at 30, more mature and a leader, but neither of them could guarantee fitness even when in proper bowling tune. For them, with Cottrell, who had only one Test before No. 1 v SA, to get wickets and control the game, with spinner Benn, was asking much too much.
Hence, one of Shannon Gabriel or Jason Holder, the other faster bowlers on tour, should have been considered, and included, at the expense of a batsman, probably Devon Smith.
Gabriel has played in nine Tests for twenty-two wickets, while Holder only had one game, for two wickets. But if batting was the concern, Holder, a budding fast bowling-all-rounder, might have filled that role with good lower order batting. Leon Johnson could then have again opened the batting.
Johnson got a good debut half century opening against Bangladesh. While SA has the world’s best fast bowler, Dale Stein, and one of the world’s most consistent faster bowlers too, Vernon Philander, as its disposal, with adversity comes determination. As an opener, Johnson would have coped well enough!
Realistically, if Shiv Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels do not produce massive scores, WI will almost always get less than 300 runs per innings. That, in both innings, almost always guarantees a loss!
Roach’s injury is not as serious as first though, but would cause concerns for Tests No’s 2 and 3, if he plays in them at all. Truth be told, he should be rested from the ODI series, with the bigger thought of proper rehabilitation and recuperation in preparation for ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, a bigger event.
WI may not have much to celebrate after Test No. 1, but they must be much more adventurous in team selection for Test No. 2; start with five bowlers; to have a relatively better showing. Enjoy!
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