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Too early to celebrate WI victories
The victories in the T/20 and One-Day Internationals against New Zealand must have given great satisfaction, inspiration and confidence to the West Indies team as it goes into the Test series next week. This is the first time in years that the West Indies has won a tournament against a team other than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
The victories have surely brought some measure of joy to beleaguered and long-suffering West Indies fans and given them hope that the team is about to emerge from the long period of darkness in the cricket wilderness. It has been 20 years since the West Indies began the slide from the pinnacle of world cricket.
But as enthusiastic as all of the West Indies would like to be about the series wins, a hold should be placed on the celebrations pending sterner tests—including what is likely to happen in the Test series against the Kiwis, as the likes of Daniel Vettori join the NZ team. What the team management must focus on are the weaknesses evident in the batting, and the relative lack of penetration in the bowling.
The series against England—and that is a far more accurate barometer by which progress should be judged—exposed those inadequacies in a very brutal manner. Sammy and his men were saved only by the notorious English weather from a complete drubbing in the Test series. Again, only unplayable conditions intervened in the ODIs to prevent a total whitewash of the Windies.
Even with the welcome return of Chris Gayle to West Indian colours, the top of the batting order was found wanting in the last three ODIs against New Zealand. If Gayle’s failure to score as relentlessly and in a domineering fashion in the last three ODIs could be written off as just a bad patch for a world-class player, Smith showed all his career weaknesses. There were also bad omens in the inconsistency of Pollard and Bravo and Sammy’s failure to play one innings of some consequence in the series.
Only the rejuvenated Marlon Samuels, of the top-order batsmen, scored assuredly and suggested any sense of permanency at the crease. Ramdin did nothing with the bat in the early games (perhaps he was preoccupied with his impending marriage) but replacement Devon Thomas showed potential. Russell, as an allrounder batsman, has great promise, and next time around he must be put up the order, surely in front of Sammy and Thomas, or Ramdin.
Of the bowlers, Narine was the standout. He is a young man learning his craft, and spinners usually take longer at honing this very challenging form of bowling. He needs support and technical advice, and the selectors and board also need to assure him of a place in West Indies cricket—otherwise no one could blame him if he follows the trek towards the Indian Premier League and the other big-money tournaments around the world.
The other bowlers on show, except for a couple spells from the exuberant Tino Best, were quite ordinary. What is more, the bowlers did not indicate through their performances that the potential exists amongst them for world-class wicket-taking ability.
Kemar Roach, the one bowler outside of Narine who has shown the ability to consistently trouble the best batsmen of the era, returns in the President’s XI and hopefully if he is fit will be available for the Test series. So too will Chanderpaul return to stiffen the batting. The bottom line, therefore, is that the victories must be savoured; but the transformation of an at times very brittle team remains a challenge for the board, management and players.
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