Once a school boy was asked in the Caribbean, define batting? The prudent kid instantly replied, “It’s an art most teams do well, except one.” The teacher asked, “Which one?” The kid wasted no time whatsoever, “the one that doesn’t seem too interested in batting.” Irritated by the indirect responses offered, the teacher questioned again, “You are the most clueless student among all of these,” referring to the others. The boy finally replied, “Okay, sorry, it’s the West Indies.”
On a serious note, before the West Indies become a joke like the above, which neither sounds too funny nor pleasant, they ought to do something about their batting.
Recently, they won a great Test, at the back of a one-wicket win against Pakistan. Glad were those fans who saw that unbelievable moment for rare are occasions where the Test team wins something, the previous win prior to the heist orchestrated excellently by Roach and Seales coming back in February.
But where does the team stand right now?
In pursuit of Pakistan’s 324 for 9 (decl.), the team is tottering at 123 for 8. That they are 179 runs behind and perhaps destined for a follow-on is embarrassing in many ways.
First, that the West Indies are playing at home, incidentally at the very venue where half a decade back, they showed great resilience in holding on to a draw against India thanks to a Roston Chase special.
Second, that the West Indies aren’t facing the most terrorising bowling attack, even as it is one comprised of the probing Shaheen Shah Afridi.
The current Pakistan pace attack has an average age of 26. Together, Afridi, Hasan Ali and Abbas have played no more than 57 Tests. The team this three-pronged pace attack is bowling to, if you keep Ashraf’s medium pace aside, has three men who alone constitute 187 Test matches, captain Brathwaite with 71 Tests alone, Holder playing his 50th Test whilst Roach has 66 games under his belt already.
What the Caribbean fan is seeing and perhaps turning away very quickly from is an anomaly to a fact commonly believed: that experience is the key and sees the light of the day.
If that were always to be the truth, why’s the home team crawling like a snail with two batsmen in two-figure scores?
Where would this team have been if Bonner and Blackwood, both Jamaicans aware of the need to, at least, put up a show in front of fans not put 70 of those 123 tawdry runs on the board?
Nevertheless, if anyone was asked to break down where’s it that the West Indies batsmen are getting it wrong, then none would have to be an Ian Bishop style observer to note what’s fairly obvious.
A) Spending time in the middle
The first four wickets- Brathwaite, Powell, Alzarri and Chase lasted for 124 minutes. Break it down, that’s hardly over 2 hours in the middle. On the contrary, Nkrumah Bonner, top-scorer so far, lasted for 182 minutes on his own showing clearly that where others were struggling to put bat to ball, the answer was simply in just sticking out there.
B) Lack of partnerships
The highest stand for any wicket for Pakistan was 158. For West Indies, though, it was the 60-run stand that saved them from absolute annihilation, though in comparison to their opponents, it was less than double of what Pakistanis managed with resolve.
C) Where’s your century West Indies?
Kraigg Brathwaite, who since his 97 in the first inning of the 1st Test, has looked the part of an amateur batsman, cannot be made into a punching bag.
That’s only because his entire batting line up should be made one.
That 97 was even statistically high than what the top-six of his own line-up, including Kraigg himself managed in this inning, while Powell, Bonner, Joseph, Mayers, Chase managed just 93.
All of this when Fawad Alam, who is no Jayden Seales in age, made 124 on his own, remaining unbeaten until the end.
What must be questioned- but isn’t – is what kind of advice is being offered by Phil Simmons, who has a horrible track record as a coach in the Caribbean.
Save the series win in Bangladesh, earned largely through Mayers’s and Bonner’s efforts and the great spin bowling by Cornwall, who’s inexplicably not in the team, there’s been nothing commendable the Windies batsmen have done in the Caribbean.
To be defeated by a Bumrah-led Indian attack when you are at your lowest ebb, circa 2019, is one thing. You can be pardoned for being pitted against a much stronger opposition. But to fail to beat a Sri Lankan attack that has no Malcolm Marshall, Garner, Wes Hall-style bowlers in Viswa Fernando, Embuldeniya and Suranga Lakmal beckons serious questioning.
That was when Sri Lanka had no Kusal Perera and where Dimuth Karunaratne was desperately out of form.
Moreover, that no internal enquiry was done when the West Indies found themselves hammered by an inexperienced South African line-up, which had last visited the Caribbean over a decade ago, was telling.
Does the board not take Test cricket seriously? Or is it left utterly contented to see the seniors like Gayle, Pollard, Bravo and Russell score occasional T20I series wins?
Moreover, can a T20 series win make up lost ground for the horrible outcomes achieved by the Test side? Is the cricketing firmament in the Caribbean not serious about shaping a well-rounded Test team that can make a serious breakthrough in the game.
Not once does the fan get to hear news about the Caribbean batsmen reaching out to the likes of heroes in Brian Charles Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Make no mistake. It’s not Lara and Shiv’s responsibility to approach a fledgeling side; the onus is on the team to consult the stalwarts.
One reckons, if Lara can have all the time in the world for an IPL commentary stint, can he not spare a few hours for his own countrymen? Provided, he’s approached and thought of as being resourceful.
One wonders, what might have Tony Cozier said from behind the mic seeing the spineless batting display the West Indies are currently responsible for? Would he have walked out of the commentary box?
Is everything a joke to the West Indies, who in 2010s would make a regular habit of being bundled out much earlier than the fifth day of a Test?
Lastly, would you even care to imagine what might have happened had this very team been up against a Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis-led attack?
That’s 787 Test wickets.
Do they not have in them to forge century-run stands or are they simply turning up for a game for collecting the pay cheque? Is there no responsibility to contribute for the sake of the fan, who in this era of trolls and memes and whatnot is still clinging to the hope that a turnaround is possible?