7th May 2015
Patrolling the Boundary – a view from the outfield
The smiles and joy on the faces of the outnumbered WI supporters at Kensington Oval when Jermaine Blackwood hit the winning runs for a series leveling victory spoke to how much WI cricket still means to the people living in this region.
Through the last decade of constant bickering and acrimony between the WICB and WIPA that seems to have been lost on all. The egos and financial aims of Mr. Ramnarine and a select group of senior players together with the various WICB Presidents and CEOs pushed the emotions and loyalty of WI supporters to the background as they squabbled and fought over their “piece of the pie”.
At Kensington on Sunday a new generation of WI cricketers emerged who seem to be serious about Test cricket and most importantly, representation.
Phil Simmons, always a solid personality in his playing days, together with Curtly Ambrose a fierce competitor, with others in the background, brought together a squad led by youth but still retaining experience with Chanderpaul, Samuels, Ramdin and Taylor.
The young players have led the way – Blackwood and Holder in the 1st Test; Kraigg Brathwaite in the 2nd Test and Blackwood again in the 3rd Test, together with a mature innings from the previously disappointing Bravo, plus the assault led by the fast bowlers on that second afternoon when they left England’s second innings in tatters!
What has been striking is the fielding, especially the catching. WI last season were dropping 5-6 catches a Test Match, a lot of them in the slips. Darren Bravo was seen as unreliable in the cordon but in this series we snatched almost everything that came our way. Well done!! In contrast England dropped critical catches in the series.
I totally agree with Simmons that what has been outstanding is the spirit and determination shown by the team every time England looked to be running away with the Test.
The English press contend their team does not have a killer instinct to put the WI away. I prefer to suggest the WI would not allow England to put them away.
WI teams have always been tenacious and that is why up until the late 1990s it was the team the Australians held in highest esteem. We used to fight the Aussies until the war was over, no quarter given! Once we instill that spirit in these young players and teach them that their job is to play the game hard but fairly and the WI people will never not be at your side.
Everyone wants to see our cricketers paid well and enjoy the fruits of their exceptional talent but they must not forget the cricket supporter who makes the sacrifice to pay $40 to see them play. Jason Holder, Kraigg, Bishoo, Blackwood, in all that they have said in interviews show that they get the importance of representation. Long may it last!!
The team is in the very early stages of genuine rebuilding and we must not lose focus. Darren Bravo needs to build on his 82 and show he is now ready to lead the WI batting along with Marlon now that Shiv is nearing the end.
The English commentators all made the point that Bravo never suggests certainty when he is at the crease so bowlers are always kept interested. The manner of his dismissals suggest that is so, therefore, it’s time to toughen up and build on what was an excellent Test innings.
Chanderpaul seems to be at the end of the road and one would assume Clive Lloyd and the selectors will discuss that with him and an orderly exit arranged. This would allow Hope to come to the middle order at 4 or 5 and a new opening batsman brought on.
WI need a fit and much quicker Kemar Roach to lead the attack. With a fit Roach at the top of his game the series result could have been different. Roach needs to focus seriously and work hard to get himself to the top of his game and hopefully in time for the Aussies.
Roach has a very good Test record and broke into the top 10 bowling rankings. An article on ESPNCricinfo showed that since 2012 to end 2014 Johnson, Steyn and Roach were the best fast bowlers around in terms of bowling average and strike rate. Roach is class and quality and WI need him back at his best.
Gabriel has developed well and is a testimony to his hard work and commitment. Well done Shannon! Jason Holder is developing as a fast medium bowler and in the 3rd Test was bringing the batsman forward more often and not bowling as short as he had been doing. The result was a good Test match. Bishoo showed good quality in the 2nd Test and his lower order batting was good.
WI have the core of a good team and can develop over time to represent the region well but no one must make these young men feel they have failed if they don’t become the number 1 team or beat all and sundry like the former great teams. Every era has its own legacy and we must ask for hard working, committed cricketers who represent us well. The results will follow but don’t demand greatness!!
Finally, on the captaincy, Ramdin is being heavily criticized for baffling tactics with his bowling changes in particular and field setting. Ramdin, by most judges had a moderate to poor series as a skipper. I have to agree, and one senses in time this will not be his team and Jason Holder is likely to emerge as the leader of this generation. Ramdin’s wicket-keeping was competent and batting useful so his place is not in doubt at this stage. His leadership is another matter.
The Australians will pose a sterner challenge with their aggressive brand of cricket and genuinely fast bowlers. Our batsmen will have to stand up and our fast bowlers will face batsmen eager to attack them. Our boys must keep believing, play as a team and fight hard and they will not be blown away and will do us proud!!
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