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Don’t blame WI for being better than Zimbabwe
Today is St Patrick’s Day. If you are of Irish extraction, this day is important. In the distant past, I have even had green ale to mark this event. One thing about the Irish, they really do know how to celebrate.
West Indies played well in Test No 1 against Zimbabwe to have the run of the green, but there were kinks in the team’s system that, while papered over by that nine-wicket win, were not convincing.
Already, noises have been heard that the regional side “only beat Zimbabwe because they are soft”. That is not West Indies’ fault. Any team can only play the opposition, assessing situations and planning for success.
The boys from the landlocked country whose motto is “Unity, Freedom, Work”, will have to work diligently, together, freeing up their minds and stroke-play, to be even on par for the second Test in Dominica.
Zimbabwe’s players looked so lost in the environment, having not played a Test match for over a year. But, at 151-6, first innings, supposedly more accomplished West Indies, were also wobbling badly too.
Had it not been for that improving batting dynamism from captain Darren Sammy, putting paid to that stupidly continuing suggestion that his is just taking up space, and calming mature effect from wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin, West Indies would have been in a bigger dilemma than the under-par 307.
Zimbabwe’s first innings, 211, was a poor effort but reasons, not excuses, can be given for this underachievement, the relatively renewed glare of tough international cricket blinding them. Its second innings, 107, on a spin-helpful, spiteful pitch, was a travesty, batsmen way out of their present depths.
The main batsmen, those with relative international experiences and performances, especially captain Brendan Taylor, veteran opener Vusi Sibanda and another veteran, past opener Hamilton Masakadza, failed badly, based solely on their lack of recent and continuing international cricket.
I know Taylor quite well as we roomed and travelled around in style, in a Chrysler 300 Special Edition while playing for Lashings Touring team which was ran by David Folb in United Kingdom, a few years ago.
Taylor is an extremely intense cricketer, who reminds me much of former Guyanese batsman Mark Harper. That intensity, though, almost always overwhelms output; hence great effort but no real success. One secret of professional sports-persons’ successes is to be able to relax at just the right time.
Sibanda is probably the most accomplished batsman that Zimbabwe has, always seeming poised and purposeful, whose previous tours to West Indies earmarked him for greater things. Lack of top-class cricket and his team’s absence from international cricket the last years, have certainly taken its toll.
Masakadza is a special case of having much responsibility while not having enough opportunity. This is the same guy who, in his first Test ever, back in 2001, made 119 versus West Indies in Harare. Yet, to date, he has only played 20 Tests in 12 years. That type of ridiculous isolation would put rust on anyone.
Two bowling performances impressed, West Indies off-spinner Shane Shillingford’s match-winning 9–107, and Zimbabwe’s fast bowler Kyle Jarvis’s 5-54. If Jarvis had, had any help, like former captain and fast bowler, sometimes coach Heath Streak or similar, Zimbabwe would have shaken up West Indies more.
Shillingford has improved immensely, using his spindly form, long fingers and great height to extract that latent element that is always present at Kensington Oval in Barbados, the real, almost vertical bounce for spinners.
It would be interesting to see how he goes at home in Rousseau, Windsor Park in Dominica, where he got 10 wickets against Australia last year, yet not to, somehow, play again until last week. Instead of moaning that West Indies beat a soft team, we should ask: What is wrong with this picture?
On the other hand, Kemar Roach, Tino Best and Shannon Gabriel were quite disappointing. On Kensington Oval, known to also help faster bowlers, West Indies spinners got 13 Zimbabwean wickets.
Roach looked so bedraggled, more a noise nuisance now than a fully functioning fast bowler. Nothing he delivered looked like the bowler of even two years ago. What has happened to him these last few years? Can it be that Twenty20’s around the world is wearing out a bowler that is younger than 25?
Best was unlucky when the new ball swung. Once the shine was gone, so was he. How can a Test fast bowler not know how to use an old ball? Bowling straight and fast will not get many wickets often.
Gabriel looked so big and muscular that I nearly did not recognise him from his first Test, last year, at Lords, when he was lithe, athletic almost elastic, much like a young Ian Bishop. At times in Barbados, Gabriel looked like a war-tank running up.
What Gabriel must do now, before he becomes muscle bound, is run many miles up hills and down valleys. What is this fascination of gyms? One gets anaerobic strength in a gym, not necessarily aerobic fitness.
Anyway, West Indies should win Test No 2, with a more convincing overall team performance! Enjoy!
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