We can only hope that the outcome of the final Sharjah test against Pakistan on November 3 provides some kind of impetus for the West Indies cricket team ahead of what will almost certainly be a far more testing encounter against England later next year. Cynical as it may seem the sentiment is a reflection of hope more than expectation. The simple fact is that, these days, you put your money on the West Indies at your own peril. Indeed, there are those who would contend that their unpredictability is exceeded only by their stubborn refusal to win matches.
There is no denying the fact that the emergence of Kraigg Braithwaite as a test batsman has been by far the most positive outcome of the Pakistan test series for the West Indies.
His primary asset is his mind set, underpinned as it is with a preoccupation with occupying the crease against the backdrop of a batting lineup comprising batsmen who, for lack of maturity, discipline and/or determination, consistently fail to perform anywhere near as well as can be expected of them. If, at this juncture it would perhaps be unkind to finger any of the top order batsmen (though it might be argued the Leon Johnson should be an exception) as candidates for being sidelined, it would be irresponsible to ignore the overall brittleness of the team’s batting which, more than anything else, resulted in our underperformance against Pakistan. Cricketing pundits may, as well, be inclined to – at this stage – raise the issue of Marlon Samuels’ future as a test cricketer, the perfectly reasonable argument being that it is difficult for the West Indies to realistically aspire to any real short-term improvement in the quality of its overall performance if its elder statesman in the batting department remains hugely unreliable and possessed of a proclivity for gifting his wicket, whatever the circumstances of the match.
Excessive criticism of the team should be tempered by an acceptance of its newness and an uncertainty as to which of the rookies will stay the course and which will not. The underperformance of Johnson against Pakistan on what, we are told were more-or-less not particularly challenging wickets means that an opening partner for Braithwaite is still to be found. There are quite a few prospective candidates of which Guyana’s Rajendra Chandrika is one.
Setting aside Kraigg Braithwaite’s cricketing record as being the first batsman to carry his bat through both innings of a test match – a feat which, in itself, is deserving of prominent appreciation at the levels of both his native Barbados and the region as a whole. What sets Braithwaite apart – in a West Indian context – is his understanding of the cricketing common sense of occupancy of the crease. There is yet to be invented an alternative means of accumulating runs.
Fort emphasis, it is necessary to remind readers that this article takes account of the fact that we are (hopefully) in ther process of building a team and that we have not even remotely reached the stage of beginning to turn a corner. If that fact does not outlaw constructive criticism it certainly compels us to be tempered in our view.
Pakistan’s batting prospered – more often than not – because the West Indies’ bowling was – more often than not – simply not up to scratch. The broad-minded amongst us would surely agree that a bowling attack comprising primarily, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Davindra Bishoo along with a handful of newcomers and part-timers can subdue an India or an Australia with the sort of consistency that puts the team in a position to win with any frequency.
If things are to improve on the field we will need to have a more stable, less erratic regional cricketing administration, one that understands that its only purpose is the serve the game. This point is being made having regard to the tendency by some Board officials to behave as though they are celebrities in their own right when the truth is that the extent of their value is limited strictly to how well they serve the game.
It remains a tragedy that at a time when Caribbean cricket finds itself in what is its deepest ever crisis, there does not exist in the region as a whole, a sense that the game is growing at the grass root level.
The bottom line is that apart from serious sports and coaching programmes and structured competitions at a school level that can take the game forward coupled with a regime of infrastructure that includes grounds and facilities, what we have in some instances, including the instance of Guyana, are power-hungry officials who appear to be more concerned about their own aggrandizement rather than with the future of the game. That too has to change.