Colin E. H. Croft
West Indies could have won Test No. 1 v England, but for mistakes from selectors, captain and players, and lack of knowledge of how to win. A creditable draw was a very good result.
Had WI had a better fourth front-line bowler – Devendra Bishoo from the Test squad, or Veerasammy Permaul from those originally called up – instead of Suleiman Benn, or had captain Denesh Ramdin used his premier bowler, Jerome Taylor, in more concise spells, then England would not have made 399 after being 34-3 in its 1st innings.
England did give themselves and WI a chance, by declaring, but that first innings saved England!
Ramdin and new Head Coach Phillip Simmons should be very proud for the way their players not only took to new leadership, but also took England head-on, with no fear.
Less we forget, WI, described as “mediocre” by ECB Chairman Colin Graves, was supposed to have been blown away. Where exactly does that leave England now?
Graves should have noted one mantra from late, great, highly respected Australian icon, Richard Benaud, known to all as “Richie”, whose loss has been universally lamented.
Richie’s mantra, to be adhered to forever, was – “Put your brain into gear first before putting your mouth into gear!”
Having had the honor of completing many stints of commentary with Richie, I am quite proud, as not many West Indians have had that absolute pleasure. He was ‘simply marvelous’, an excellent, world-class cricketing all-rounder, possibly an even better Sports Journalist and Commentator, a consummate professional.
What a cricketing friend. We shall all miss him dearly!
So, for WI v England, Simmons could well be benefiting from efforts of much maligned past Head Coach Ottis Gibson, who, while not being as successful as required, certainly started instilling that necessary aspect into efforts of most WI players – discipline.
This phenomenon of successors benefiting from predecessors is not new to WI either.
Sir Frank Worrell is lauded as being the main architect in achieving togetherness in WI cricket, circa 1960’s, but it was his successor as captain, Sir Garfield Sobers, who reaped most of that team’s benefits.
While Sir Frank’s team was extremely popular, they also lost regularly. It was Sir Gary’s team which was noted as World Champions, after beating Australia in 1965, then England in 1966!
Clive Lloyd too did similarly to Sir Frank when he became WI captain in 1974/5.
Lloyd created, with the help of nucleus Deryck Murray, Gordon Greenidge, Roy Fredericks, Alvin Kallicharran and Sir Andy Roberts, a colorful canvas of superlative, world-beating, athletic cricketers not ever seen previously and not likely to be ever seen again.
When Lloyd passed the captaincy to Sir Vivian Richards, WI were again World Champions.
Sir Viv, celebrated for not ever losing a Test series as captain, was handed a team that was well honed, thoroughly experienced and knowledgeable, each player knowing his exact role. Under Sir Viv’s captaincy, WI could not have lost a Test series even if they tried to do so!
Unfortunately, Simmons and Ramdin do not have such luxuries, but already evident is that the two Trinidad & Tobago natives seem to be working from the same page.
Realistically, WI’s Test team needs at least one additional front-line bowler, probably two front-line batsmen, and, with Jason Holder’s excellent achievement of a maiden First Class and Test century, perhaps another similarly producing all-rounder.
Kemar Roach, Taylor, Benn and Holder will not, collectively, not now, not ever in the future, put fear into opposing Test batsmen’s heads, even if those four do try hard.
Taylor got five good wickets in Test No. 1, and should be at his sporting peak at 30 years old, but he averages just three wickets per Test.
If each bowler in a four-man bowling attack, as WI has, averages that, then WI will never dismiss any Test team twice without six or seven run-outs!
Roach looked under-paced, needing match-fitness and much work. With past injuries, perhaps his best is already gone, but his 1st Test production was commendable – five wickets too – even if, in the 2nd innings, he lacked pace and penetration when necessary for a good second innings effort.
Unsurprisingly, Benn continues to be poor, being neither frugal nor wicket-productive. This should be his last hurrah. Match figures of 53-6-200-2 are not good enough even for the beach!
Holder is still bowling at way-too-short lengths. While he gets the ball to swing or deviate off the pitch, his deliveries mostly miss edges of bats due to lack of fuller lengths. 42-16-132-3 were not impressive, but Holder is young and has much learning to complete. At least, he is fast becoming that much needed bowling all-rounder!
Marlon Samuels delivered more than twenty-five overs in Test No. 1, with only one wicket to show, suggesting that there is a dire need for either another functional front-line all-rounder, a better No. 4 bowler, or in desperation, a fifth bowler, for WI to win regularly.
Hopefully, yesterday (Saturday), Phil Simmons had several relaxing liquid livations for his 52nd birthday, as his captain, Denesh Ramdin, and his team, did him proud. Enjoy!
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