The West Indies vs Sri Lanka 2 Test matches ended in a disappointing drawn series with both test matches failing to produce one outright winner. Most West Indian fans would have predicted victory for their team after their exploits in Bangladesh, coupled with the white ball victories in both the ODIs and the T20, as well as from the fact that Sri Lanka was missing a few of their top test players.
Nevertheless, it produced some tough, hard-fought days of cricket between two evenly matched teams. It did seem as though West Indies would have taken the series from day one when they dismissed the visitors for a paltry 169 in the first innings of the first test.
But how well did Sri Lanka fight back to score 476 in their second innings and in the end, West Indies were batting just to draw the game chasing 375 runs.
In the second test, roles were reversed and Sri Lanka batted out the final day without any alarms to save the test. At times in both test matches, good cricket was on display; exciting, tough, passionate and disciplined unfortunately interspersed with some ordinary cricket by both teams. Sloppy fielding and dropped catches, batsmen occasionally playing reckless shots and far too many no balls being bowled at this level.
Both teams have a lot of homework to do to progress up the ladder and challenge the likes of India, New Zealand and Australia.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the tests was the condition of the pitches at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. For both test matches, they were flat and docile in nature and although the likes of Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph bent their backs and got the ball up by the helmet of the opposition, there was no real pace from the pitch.
Even on the fifth day, Rahkeem Cornwall received little assistance unless the ball pitched in the rough and even that did not assist the lone specialist spinner in the West Indies team. It is time for CWI to properly assess the pitches in the region and come up with some type of formula to assist all the regional grounds on the type of test match pitches to prepare for the West Indies teams. The ODIs and T20s are taken care of as the spectators want to see sixes and fours on docile batting tracks.
In test cricket, it is a tough battle between bat and ball as both should enjoy a good, bouncy pitch where the batsmen can play shots and there is something for the bowlers. A friend asked me that if Malcolm Marshall was bowling on that track, would the Sri Lankans have survived? Or if Lance Gibbs was bowling on the last day, would West Indies have complained about the flat pitch? Unfortunately, West Indies no longer has bowlers of that quality so it is unfair to compare what bowlers are in the team today to those of yesteryear.
Indeed, what is required is to work with them, help them to improve and give them the confidence required to better themselves into world-class bowlers. Again, that is precisely the job of a bowling coach.
West Indies batsmen did a good job. Kyle Mayers, in particular, has improved beyond recognition with his batting. He should keep working hard at his game because the better bowlers will certainly look for his flaws and explore them however, I admire his positive attitude.
Nkrumah Bonner has also improved but his strength seems to lie through his powers of concentration and he must continue to play balls on merit rather than trying to be like Mayers and attack the bowling.
Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite now has to find the consistency that he has been lacking over the last couple of years and perhaps his new role as captain has brought more responsibility to his batting. John Campbell, on the other hand, continues to be a major concern. He is undoubtedly trying hard and working at his game but the selectors may have to call time on his test status.
However, it may not necessarily be the end of his career as he will have to go back to the drawing board and start from the basics to revive his international career.
Jermaine Blackwood continues to be like Jekyll and Hyde - one minute tearing into a bowling attack and the next, finding the most impossible ways to get out. Making him vice-captain was not a good move primarily because of his irresponsible nature with the bat. While he is an excellent team man, he must exercise more self-control in this area of his game.
Shai Hope and Darren Bravo must be given serious consideration. I can’t see Hope in any other position at the moment apart from opening the batting. The selectors opted to go with 5 specialist batsmen against the Sri Lankans; a move I applauded as I believe that Jason Holder is good enough to come in at number 6 and score runs.
His batting can improve and he has to be more consistent in chalking up bigger scores but to get 20 wickets, the West Indies needs 5 bowlers. The question remains - against a better bowling attack, can Holder at 6 produce the goods? Only time will tell.
Young Joshua Da Silva will continue to improve as his batting technique is good.
He needs to gather confidence in his ability and begin to rotate the strike more often rather than play each ball with a dead bat. Once he works hard at all aspects of his game including his wicket-keeping and gains experience, I expect he will be a fixture on the West Indies team.
The bowling attack at times looked good, but there were too many balls wasted and I am sure the West Indies bowling coach will continue to work on the consistency of the bowlers.
Next up for the West Indies is South Africa which is going to be a real acid test for this young West Indies team. They will come armed with variety in their bowling attack and their batting lineup has many world-class players. It will be tough for the West Indies who must be well prepared to get anything out of the Proteas. But for now, fans are seeing good, positive strides being made by their young test team.
There are a few gaps to plug to make them even better but the attitude is excellent; the discipline within the squad is good; the passion and desire is filtering through like a breath of fresh air but in the next couple of months, just how good this West Indies test team is will be up for judgement.
Finally, the disgraceful political nonsense off the field appears to be over. Why do administrators in sport always feel they are bigger than the sport itself? By all means, Ricky Skerritt and Dr Kishore Shallow should be given another opportunity to take West Indies cricket forward.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.