The West Indies have once again lost a Test match, but was it all negative during the match? Most definitely not! What is needed now is for the management to show some more creativity in selection and for our batsmen to be more aggressive to win matches.
India won this Test over two critical periods, when Harbhajan decided to take on the bowlers and when Sammy dropped Dravid off a sitter. For the rest of the match we were an equal, if not better team. However, the final result is what matters and that shows India as the winner.
But it is not all doom and gloom. Our biggest problem is the batting. What has happened to Sarwan and Nash? They are two senior batsmen but they did not exist during this match. Sarwan, especially is very worrying since he is our #3. He failed against Pakistan also. Is his career coming to an end? He is quality that will be hard to replace. Nash has never really cemented his place and should be replaced. Can a team already so limited carry two out-of-form senior players?
Our bowling is ok and can even be argued that it is world class. Edwards returned the aggression to our fast bowling unit while Bishoo passed his examination once again. What is missing from the tick box in this unit is another genuine fast bowler. If he was present for this Test, Harbhajan would never have made his runs.
Our batting cannot be faulted for its approach in the 2nd innings. It was the only way to win the match. If only Chanderpaul or Nash had played a Dravid innings then the results could have been different. Bharath, Simmons, Bravo played their natural game and it would have been enough if our other more established players had played their part also.
So what can we change for the 2nd Test? Ideally, we need another fast bowler but since Sammy must play then it is up to the management to be more creative and pro active. There is only one way that this can be done and that is to play an additional bowler and drop a batsman. But how can this be done when we are already bare in the batting department?
Firstly, management needs to make some short term decisions to address our obvious team deficiency. Since we must play an additional bowler and drop a batsman then we will have to convert either Simmons or Bravo into a stop-gap wicket keeper. This then opens up another spot for a bowler and the one that comes readily to mind is Andre Russell since he is a genuine fast bowler and a more than adequate batsman who dominated with both bat and ball in the ODIs.
With these changes the team should read Simmons, Bharath, Samuels (promoted to #3), Sarwan, Chanderpaul, Bravo (dropped down the order because he has to keep), Sammy, Russell, Rampaul, Edwards, Bishoo. This is not a balanced test Team but it seems much more capable than the present selection.
Team composition will always be a predicament with Sammy in the team but at least he has been getting wickets and trying his best, and that should be commended. It is when the W/indies are in need of an aggressive 4th bowler to break partnerships like Harbhajan/Rohit that Sammy’s limitations are exposed. Further compounding matters is that our wicketkeeper has been contributing very little with the bat. Even if management decides on a replacement keeper there is no guarantee that he will make more runs that the incumbent.
If Sammy will be a long term captain, then the WICB has to make some decisions early if they are to mould a competitive team. They will have to convert a specialist batsman into a wicketkeeper who can bat at #6. That way three specialist pacers can play alongside Sammy and Bishoo. Russell is the ideal choice as the 3rd specialist bowler. He is a left arm pacer giving variety to the bowling and seems more than capable of converting into a genuine all rounder. If Gibson was able to convert his tail into such competent batsmen then it is more than likely that he can do the same to Russell.
Our management needs to become emboldened. Until now they have been going by the book with the team selection. But too many of our players are out of form, especially the senior ones.
The situation with the captain further compounds matters. So the only way out would be to gamble. We could start by tinkering with the keeper (unless the alternatives state up front that they can’t keep to Bishoo) and playing the additional bowler. If we lose, then it would just be another defeat (we are already accustomed to this) but if we win then we would have fallen on a combination that could make us competitive again.