Did all the West Indian batsmen miss their flight?
Post pandemic, could the first test match back be over in a couple of days?
Beginning my love affair with cricket in the early 90s, West Indian cricket was the pinnacle of success. Stories of awe and fear would come from our parents at our junior cricket games, legendary names such as Greenidge, Haynes, Bishop, Marshall and Garner. Stories of the young Ambrose or Walsh skittling the petrified Aussies for next to nothing or the “Master Blaster” Viv Richards smashing it everywhere in his pyjama-kit in World Series Cricket.
The West Indies at their peak had Viv at the helm. Source: Sports Crazy
As years went on, more and more backyard cricket games or after school nets session were spent imitating the prince of Trinidad, Brian Lara’s beautiful trademark back-lift, whilst poorly attempting another slashing cut or when you felt like annoying your coach, standing with an open stance like the highly underrated Shivnarine Chanderpaul. There was the dominant bowling partnership of Ambrose (who makes many teams of the past 50 years) and Walsh who would still make every batsman jumpy.
As the 90s came to a close, the once dominating West Indian Test dynasty’s light seemed to burn less bright. I will never forget their ill-fated 2000/2001 summer tour against the legendary Australian team. An effortless Australian clean sweep was summed up by the Channel 9 commentary team saying, “it will probably be the last time they would get a five match series on Australian soil”. They were right.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, there was still two batsmen who over the next decade or more, would enter the legendary 10,000 run club and finish with 50+ career averages (Lara and Chanderpaul). Then other stars such as Gayle and Sarwan would hold the torch going into the next decade, both finishing their test cricket careers with 40+ career averages. However, big questions loomed over the West Indian batting stocks. Who else would come along? Where was the talent coming through? Who are the next stars? The next Lara, Chanderpaul, Richards, Richardson, Haynes or Adams?
The only way Lara got out against Australia was a peach from McGrath early or if he got bored. Source: Cricket.com.au
West Indian cricket has not answered these questions and tomorrow their delayed COVID-19 tour of England will begin. As an Australian expatriate living in the UK, I have taken great interest in what will be my cricket fix. Nevertheless, from looking over the two squads, I cannot see the West Indian’s winning this series with much help from their batsmen. Their pace attack and the exciting big-rig Cornwall (140kg) better stand up.
Test match cricket is a simple art, where patient teams post scores, big scores, defendable totals and then their bowlers bend their backs to defend them. A winning team needs to have multiple batsmen who can anchor an innings, not just one, multiple, in case one of the others doesn’t. A winning test team needs batsmen who average over 40. If you closely examine the successful teams in the modern era, they are all over this simple formula. The once adored Calypso King’s of yesteryear had this figured out, in a big way.
This current squad doesn’t have one batsman that averages over 34 in Tests, with 59 test veteran Kraigg Brathwaite topping the tables at the lowly average of 33.29. They are a young squad, with little experience, some may argue the young need to mature their quality first-class cricket into Test cricket, but one just needs to look at their first-class records that mirror this mediocrity. No one in this squad is a quality test batman who can consistently anchor an innings. Only 3 batsmen; Brathwaite, Chase and Hope have a first-class average over 35. Someone like Shai Hope who has announced himself to the world stage via brilliant ODI cricket needs to stand up and lift his under-performing Test average of 27.23 from 31 starts. COVID-19 travel concerns can be blamed for the absence of Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer, but only the first mentioned would get a call up in any other Test nation. Bravo although a beautiful stroke-maker, his Test and first-class averages still don’t clock that essential match winning 40 mark.
If Jimmy does a Harmison and bowls to 2nd slip will he blame it on the hand sanitiser?
Source: Hamsa News
The English media don’t seem to be focussing on the obvious brittle nature of the West Indian batting depth but let’s give them some slack, we need a pick me up and this country has a history of celebrating mediocre cricketers. In this country you can barely average over 35 and you will get a long-distinguished Test career, a gig as captain and an OBE like these three muppets; Atherton, Hussain and Gatting.
To again become a world-class, dominating team West Indian cricket needs to increase it’s Test batting depth. If you also love your cricket, this isn’t news to you. The West Indian Cricket Board has had a tumultuous time since their team’s fall from grace, with pay disputes and players opting for lucrative T20 careers around the world. However, player development, player retention and pride in playing Test cricket needs to be instilled back into the system. Time will tell if this youthful team has enough to be competitive and let’s hope that multiple key batsmen have a career defining series. Unfortunately, I feel this cricket fan wont get the chance come the Saturday (the 4th day) to sit at the newly opened pubs and heckle the local Poms.