MELBOURNE, Australia, CMC – Beleaguered West Indies will face the ultimate challenge in order to stay alive in the series when they face a supremely confident Australia in the historic Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Given little chance prior to the start of the three-Test series, those odds have since widened following the Caribbean side’s poor showing on the tour, and pundits are already predicting much of the same when the second Test bowls off tomorrow.
The tour began in nightmare fashion when the Windies went down by 10 wickets well inside four days to a Cricket Australia XI – a side with an average of 21 and featuring six players on first class debut.
And things grew worse when they suffered their worst defeat to Australia in 84 years in the opening Test in Hobart, losing by a humiliating innings and 212-run margin.
They hardly dominated in the two-day tour match against a Victoria XI last week in Geelong as the build-up to the Boxing Test remained bumpy.
Despite the chaos, however, captain Jason Holder remained confident West Indies could dig deep and find the performances necessary to change the tone of the series.
“I just think we are just one good performance from turning things around. That’s the way you have to look at it, you can’t be negative all the time,” Holder told a media conference on Christmas Eve here.
“We have to find ways to pick ourselves up. For me, just looking at it, [we could be] just one good day away from a turnaround. That’s the way I’m taking it going forward.
“[It’s about] performances. We have to make runs and we have to take wickets. When chances come our way in the field we have to take them. That’s as simple as it is.”
West Indies did not find the going that simple in Hobart. They were toothless in attack as Australia piled up 583 for four with Adam Voges collecting a double century and Shaun Marsh a century.
The tourists’ batting then failed in both innings as they were bundled out for 223 and 148. Darren Bravo got a hundred in the first innings and opener Kraigg Brathwaite hit 94 in the second but their counterparts all struggled.
Holder conceded the bowling had been a let-down in Hobart but said the key at the MCG would be a strong start which would then have a positive impact on the whole innings.
“If you look at our performances for the last couple of months our bowlers have been pulling us through. They’ve been bowling well up to that point,” Holder said.
“All throughout in the Caribbean we played Australia and England, then we went to Sri Lanka and they did really well there as well. I just put it down hopefully to one bad Test match and hopefully we can pull our socks up.”
He added: “We know our body language probably wasn’t the best in the first Test match, albeit how things went. I think it is important that we start well. One we start well, the energy goes throughout.
“We had a really good two days in Geelong in the practice game which we had and it’s good to see when we start well in terms of our bowling, the energy filters through the entire innings.
“That’s one of the things I really want to stress on in terms of the body language. Once we do that we have the energy a lot longer.”
What makes the Melbourne contest all the more significant is that West Indies are playing their first Boxing Day Test in 15 years. In the last one, they went down by 352 runs with a side led by Jimmy Adams.
Marlon Samuels is the only surviving member from that squad. He was one of the stand out players in that game, getting 60 not out and 46 in the second innings.
Holder said his side would need no motivating for a game of this magnitude.
“It’s a very special occasion. Everybody knows what we’re up against. I remember walking on the field for the first time when we got here in Melbourne, it was a really nice feeling,” he said.
“I’ve been here before but not to play in a Boxing Day Test. The majority of the guys haven’t been here before to play in a Boxing Day Test either. We’re all up for it. It’s a wonderful occasion and hopefully we go well.”
AUSTRALIA – Steve Smith (captain), David Warner (vc), Scott Boland, Joe Burns, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Adam Voges.
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite (vc), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Rajendra Chandrika, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shai Hope, Denesh Ramdin, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Jomel Warrican.