By Cosmo Hamilton
Despite their encouraging performance in the T20 and ODI’s against a typically tough if new-look Australia team, it is evident that this relatively inexperienced West Indies team has not yet turned the proverbial corner and in fact they appear to have come to a fork in the road.
Having lost the First Test in Barbados and again shown their soft underbelly in the Second Test in Trinidad of a weak top order and a propensity for complete batting collapse out of the blue in the middle to lower order, one is left to wonder whether West Indies are constituted mentally to shed their T20 and ODI attention span and focus for five days, 15 sessions, and 30 hours of a Test match. They appear to be consistently coming up – as the saying goes – a day late and a dollar short.
Home-cooking has made little difference as consistency continues to elude the hosts. And at this juncture on their long and arduous journey on the road to the top five in the ICC rankings, there are critical issues to be considered by the WICB and the selection panel. Is the Chris Gayle matter really resolved? And will he rejoin the team to bolster the top of the order- with a measure of contrition? And what will the relationship be like between Gayle and Ottis Gibson?
And will the selectors consider Lendl Simmons as well they should, as a bona fide opening batsman for T20’s, ODI’s and Test matches to accompany Gayle? Additionally is the Board even considering a change in the leadership of the team if not overall, certainly at Test level since captain Darren Sammy despite his inspirational efforts in the field, does not possess the requisite temperament nor the technique for batting in this longer form of the game?
Also what if anything could the administration do about the hemorrhaging of talent such as Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Darren Bravo and Gayle to lucrative leagues such as the IPL, from a team that could ill afford such losses as they confront formidable opponents in a Test series.
But it has not been all doom and gloom in this series for the West Indies. In fact it could be said that they have not been just competitive in every game but have been in with an opportunity to win each time.
The team has shed the endemic cavalier image and they now fight doggedly for the most part, but have not been able to corral the winning attitude that is so important to successful teams.
On the positive side of this series so far the lead stories have been about – ‘Chanderpaul the Wall’, ‘The Roach Approach’, and ‘The Return of Narsingh.’ Shiv has been his usual phlegmatic, prolific self and since the retirement from Test cricket of India’s Rahul Dravid known as ‘The Wall’, perhaps that soubriquet should properly be transferred to the Guyanese lefthander, who seems no where close to retirement even after 18 years on the job.
The other big headline coming out of this keenly contested series is ‘How Kemar Got His Groove Back’. Lackluster and lethargic in 2011 against Pakistan and India in that home series, Roach against Australia this series has been a revelation. He has looked fit and focused and bowled with venom to capture 15 wickets so far at just over 17 runs per wicket.
The Barbadian has credited his coach and countryman Ottis Gibson for his resurgence. That is not surprising since Gibson in his tenure as England bowling coach and not Andy Flower is responsible for the success of England’s high class fast bowlers – James Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Tim Bresnan among others.
Deonarine’s performance has been admirable to say the least despite Gibson’s negative comments that greeted his return to Test cricket. Now Narsingh gets the last laugh as Marlon Samuels must now struggle to regain a place on the team. And so it’s on to the Third Test and the audition for the upcoming England tour is in effect.