Captain optimistic ahead of Boxing Day Test
MELBOURNE –– West Indies captain Jason Holder is confident the fast bowlers who let them down in Hobart will better demonstrate their talent in Melbourne.
Holder, a bowling all-rounder who was his team’s best bowler in the opening Test, conceded their fast bowlers “had a bad game” at Blundstone Arena, as Australia coasted to a commanding innings victory.
Australia’s Josh Hazlewood joined the criticism of the attack, admittedly depleted by the tour-ending injury to Shannon Gabriel. He said Australia knew Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach generally posed more of a threat than they did in Hobart, and expected they would lead the improvement in the Boxing Day Test.
“I think they’ll be better. A lot of their guys, [especially] their batting group, haven’t played much in Australia, so I think they’ll get better every match and put up more of a fight,” Hazlewood said today.
“I think their bowlers are the one thing that was disappointing. Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach are pretty good bowlers, they’ve had great success in the past against us and other teams, so I think that’s one area they’ll improve a lot on; their opening bowlers.”
Holder, who took over as captain from Denesh Ramdin after the mid-year series against Australia in the Caribbean, said he had faith the fast bowlers would make amends.
“If you look at our performances for the last couple of months our bowlers have been pulling us through. They’ve been bowling well up to that point. All throughout in the Caribbean we played Australia and England, then we went to Sri Lanka and they did really well there as well,” he said.
“I just put it down hopefully to one bad Test match and hopefully we can pull our socks up.”
Holder said an improved fast-bowling performance would help lift their body language, for which they were widely criticised in both Hobart and last weekend’s practice match in Geelong.
“We know our body language probably wasn’t the best in the first Test match,” he said.
“When we start well in terms of our bowling, the energy filters through the entire innings. That’s one of the things I really want to stress on in terms of the body language. Once we do that we have the energy a lot longer.”
Holder confirmed bowling all-rounder Carlos Braithwaite was likely to make his debut ahead of Miguel Cummins, the paceman recently added to the squad in place of Gabriel.
“Carlos has been in the squad for a little while now and he’s waiting for his opportunity, so he’s pretty much front line to go ahead of Miguel. But we’ll see how the conditions are,” he said.
The captain gave little away about whether they would swap left-arm finger-spinner Jomel Warrican, who claimed the important wickets of David Warner and Steve Smith on the opening day in Hobart, with leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, who claimed 6-80 in the only time he bowled to the Australians in the June series in the West Indies.
One player whose spot for Boxing Day looks assured is opener Rajendra Chandrika, who has scored three ducks in his first four Test innings and has 25 in the other.
The right-hander, who has a first-class average of 25.33, fell for 28 in the practice match. Nevertheless, Holder hinted he would stay in the team ahead of the two reserve batsmen in the squad: Shane Dowrich, who made 70 against Australia in Dominica earlier this year, and Shai Hope.
“Rajendra is the specialist opener. If you look at the rest of the batsmen, they’re middle-order batsmen. Shai has opened in the past but I don’t think he’s a specialist opener,” he said.
“I think we have to give Chandrika some time to get into what he’s doing and we’ll see how he goes in the next couple of Test matches.”
Holder said he was buoyed by the opportunity to play in a Boxing Day Test, as part of the first West Indies team to do so since 2000.
“It’s a very special occasion. Everybody knows what we’re up against. I remember walking on the field for the first time when we got here to Melbourne, it was a really nice feeling,” he said.
“I’ve been here before but not to play in a Boxing Day Test. The majority of the guys haven’t been here before to play in a Boxing Day Test either. We’re all up for it. It’s a wonderful occasion and hopefully we go well.”
Australia (from): Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Scott Boland, Joe Burns, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Adam Voges.
West Indies (from): Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite (vc), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Rajendra Chandrika, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shai Hope, Denesh Ramdin, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Jomel Warrican.