West Indies succumbed to yet another series loss, this time at the hands of Pakistan. West Indies’ woes in the longest format does not seem to end, whether they play home or away. To their credit however, they did manage to stretch Pakistan in the first Test, but once again ended up second best. There were few instances in the second Test as well, where one felt they might do the unthinkable and perhaps go on to win the match, but it turned to be the same old story. Does anyone remember when West Indies last won a Test series or even a Test? Actually, we have to go back just a couple of years to see West Indies’ series win against a struggling Bangladesh.
And to their delight, they last won a Test in May 2015, just 17 months back. Nothing to worry! While Bangladesh showed significant improvement in their first Test after a year, against England, West Indies clearly seem to be going in the opposite direction. If you think they could be happy with their limited-overs form, their whitewashes against Pakistan in the One-Day International (ODI) and T20I series against Pakistan should bring them back to ground.
West Indies Test team contains a bunch of talented players, who certainly have not been playing to their full potential. I can go on and on about Marlon Samuels’ incompetence at the highest level, but there are 10 other players in the team, more on the bench, who must ensure that things turn around for the team. West Indies surely have found a couple of gems in Roston Chase and Alzarri Joseph over the last couple of series. While they need to be further nurtured and groomed at this level. Chase in his six Tests has already scored a match-saving ton and also has a five-wicket haul to his name. Fresh from his heroics in the Under-19 World Cup, Joseph has already played a Test and two ODIs and is certainly someone West Indies can count on for many years to come.
But coming back to the current scenario, what West Indies lack is partnerships – in batting and bowling. They are over dependent on just one or two players from each department. In batting, they always look to Darren Bravo or even Kraigg Brathwaite to fire (an indication of how even West Indies have probably given up on Samuels). When it comes to the bowlers, it has been either Shannon Gabriel or Devendra Bishoo delivering consistently. What about the other 6-7 players?
What makes a good team is the fact that all the 11 players in the team play some role or the other in ensuring that they give themselves every chance of winning the game. Their skipper Jason Holder has been less than inspirational in motivating his team. When the opposition starts piling on the runs, the shoulders of the West Indies players drop and they are just waiting for things to happen rather than making it happen. It was a similar case in the home series against India and it does not have seemed to improve.
Bishoo’s magic with the ball in the first Test should have been enough to egg any team on and help them win the match, but needing 251 to win on the final day with eight wicket in hand, especially with two of West Indies’ most experienced batsmen at the crease – Bravo and Samuels – they should have perhaps won this match. But what happened was Bravo once again played a lone hand and West Indies fell short by 56 runs.
Over the years, we have been hearing or reading about the tiff between West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the players. This has caused many bitter encounters between the board and the players. This has led to many players even facing the axe, which has in turn affected the team’s performance across formats. In this tussle, the team has suffered. The likes of Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine are considered for limited-overs cricket, but have not been a part of the Test squad.
Bravo as a result retired from Tests last year. The WICB and the players should find a way to bury their hachet and ensure the best players in the country represent the nation across formats. It is easier said than done, but the stubbornness of the board and the players is just hurting the team, not just in Tests, but is slowly spreading to the other formats as well.
The new chairman of selectors Courtney Browne has made a couple of good calls. He first replaced Denesh Ramdin with a young Shane Dowrich, keeping the future in mind. Ramdin, having played 74 Tests, averaged just over 25, something that Browne was not pleased about, and rightly so. Dowrich justified his place in the team with a few good performances against India and was also solid behind the wickets. Also, the influx of young cricketers like Chase, Joseph and Kesrick Williams to name a few, bodes well for West Indies going ahead.
Top Test teams at home – be it India, Australia or even New Zealand thrive in home conditions. They put up a good fight away from home as well, perhaps winning a Test here and there, drawing matches that seem lost, which makes them a formidable unit. For West Indies though, unless rain plays a major part, they do not seem to save a match and are unable to capitalise and win matches from reasonably good positions. The fact that they have an inexperienced captain too does not help their cause. West Indies’ domestic structure is certainly not a bad one and we may see many players making it to the international stage in the months to come. Till then the current players will have to play collectively, dig deep and get West Indies the results.
With the introduction of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) West Indies players have a great platform to showcase their talents and perhaps fast track their way to the international stage with good performances. For now, West Indies somehow need to put their act together and prove to the world that they are by no means pushovers. For starters, they can avoid a whitewash at the hands of Pakistan for third time on this tour.