WI still seeking solutions
Reflecting on the 237-run defeat in the third Test against India in St. Lucia last week, West Indies captain Jason Holder and team manager Joel Garner both lamented the standard of play at the regional first-class level.
Mildly put, they were reiterating a sore point which has been part and parcel of inconsistent performances by West Indies sides for roughly two decades.
Whether or not West Indies were overcautious, it was mind-boggling for the most part to follow their batting at the Darren Sammy Cricket Stadium as India took a winning 2-0 lead in the four-match series.
Temperament and technique were sadly lacking.
Set 346 to win in a minimum 87 overs to save the match, West Indies fell for 108 in 47.3 overs.
Darren Bravo topscored with 59 in 178 minutes at No. 3. He faced 100 balls and struck five fours and one six.
Three other batsmen reached double-figures: Marlon Samuels (12), tail-ender Shannon Gabriel (11) and Roston Chase (10).
Chase’s 52-minute knock off 43 balls represented the second longest stay at the crease.
In the first innings, West Indies passed 200 with three wickets down, giving rise to the likelihood of a fairly competitive match. But then the last seven wickets tumbled for 23 runs in 16.2 overs and they were all out for 225 in 103.4 overs.
After they were sent in, India made 353 all out off 129.4 overs, having recovered from 126 for five in the 50th over, and 217 for seven declared off 48 overs.
And when one considers that there was no play on the third day because of rain, it begs the question of the mind-set of the West Indies batsmen after they had fought admirably, helped by rain, to draw the second Test in Jamaica.
Holder has pointed to a gulf between the first-class structure in the region and the international level.
“It is going to be difficult. Test match cricket is very different from our first-class cricket at this point in time. I have had the privilege to play first-class cricket and I’ve also had the privilege to play Test cricket and I can see a vast disparity between the two,” he said.
“It is a situation where many of us coming to international cricket and are trying to learn on our job. It is definitely not easy, but it is something that we are faced with and I hope the guys can learn quickly.”
In relation to the batting, Holder was quoted as saying: “We haven’t been able to put up reasonable first-innings totals which have hampered us in the recent past. If you don’t put up a good first-innings total, then you are chasing the game. We need to knuckle down. As batsmen, we need to be accountable for our actions. At the top, predominantly, we haven’t been consistent; not getting starts we’ve been looking for.”
He also conceded that West Indies “have been inconsistent with the bat for quite a while now”.
Garner, an outstanding former West Indies fast bowler, who is also the president of the Barbados Cricket Association, revealed that “we have challenges and the challenges are great”
“I think most of our challenges come from within the territories where the cricket is being made and what is being done at local level.
“What you see is what we have at regional level and what we put to the international world is what you see at regional level, and I think if we are going to be serious about our cricket there will have to be some changes and some serious moves to deal with the cricket at the developmental stage,” he said.
“We’ve always had promise, we’ve always had promising players, we’ve always had attractive players. The problem that we have is that most of the players who are identified, I don’t think they work hard enough and they fall away.
“If the players are prepared to work as hard as they need to work, they will go to the top of world cricket as well,” Garner said.
So what are the solutions?
In several post-match interviews, there have been calls for patience from members of the West Indies coaching staff. How often have we heard that tune?
From a batting perspective, analysts have cited a need to improve on technique. And with modern technology, they become more and detailed in relation to the footwork of batsmen against both pace and spin.
Yet, one has to seriously look at the temperament of some of the batsmen when it comes to bridging the gap between the longer and shorter versions of the game, especially Twenty20.
Local domestic cricket is a prime example. Fed with T20 and 50-over competitions from the start of the current season, the ability to bat for long periods has been lacking in some teams after the first two rounds of matches in the top three-day Championship.
It is not only a matter of analysing the scores but also actually watching a game or listening to commentaries on the approach of batsmen. They need to understand the meaning of paying attention to detail.
Garner is in an excellent position to compare and contrast the standard of play and one hopes that his no-nonsense style will go beyond just being the team manager.
Though the regional first-class season was traditionally short when compared with what has transpired in the past couple years as a result of the Professional Cricket League and having each team play ten matches, Garner also had the benefit of parading in the English County Championship, like many of his West Indies team-mates.
They were true professionals but times have changed. It is up to the players to step up.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com