End Of Season Reports 8: West Indies
Tests 7th, ODI 8th, T20 9th
Australia (H) – Tests lost 2-0 (3), ODIs Drew 2-2 (5), T20s Drew 1-1 (2)
West Indies’ winter has been one of ‘almosts'; they almost beat Australia in the one dayers, before almost winning the first Test in Barbados, having dominated three and a half days before falling apart. We are notoriously tough to please here at 51allout; many moons ago one of our number once asked what Graeme Thorpe brought to the party apart from runs. Actually, that might have been Mike Gatting. Gin plays tricks on the mind. Anyway, against our better judgement we are willing to let them off the hook a bit here – when a side has been consistently thrashed for the best part of a decade, this new found competitiveness is a definite plus.
If anything, the fact that it’s been so long since they’ve been a winning team is exactly the problem; against Australia they often got themselves into a position to win the game but fell at the final hurdle. The sense that they didn’t believe they could win was palpable and particularly emphasised by the third one day international when, with one required, Darren Sammy and Kemar Roach proceeded to conjure up a run out straight out of the IPL textbook to gift the tourists a tie.
That is not to gloss over the many problems which are still rife within West Indies cricket. Years of mismanagement at board level means they have been shorn of potentially four first team players during the hit-and-giggle-fest in India (Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine) and, though it looks as if Gayle may finally return to the side in England next month, it’s difficult to see how this issue goes away if they continue to schedule Test series at this time of year. No one can expect Narine to turn down a $700k contract in favour of a Test cap – he may never get the chance at that sort of money again – and anyone who says they would do so is lying. We have absolutely no problem with selling our souls for cash. On a completely unrelated note, our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the field, the current side is a mixture of exciting prospects, players who are evidently not up to it and one, remarkable, senior man. Given the (lack of) quality around him for much of his career, Shivnarine Chanderpaul must be one of the very best West Indian batsmen of all time. And that statement has nothing to do with the empty shot glasses strewn all over the room, we promise. Still now, even with the likes of Darren Bravo and Kirk Edwards looking full of potential, Chanderpaul is the wicket. His record against Australia is nothing short of sensational; in his last eight Tests against them, he averages 80.09. At home that leaps to an Ian Bell-esque 112.57. His importance to the side was made painfully clear in Barbados, where it was once he fell that the West Indies knew they were done for. One fears for them the day he retires.
Despite those caveats, things are certainly looking up. For the first time in a while they seem to have a balanced attack – Davendra Bishoo, Shane Shillingford and Narine are three good spin options – and the batting is slowly starting to look more substantial. If they can get Gayle back then he will make a big difference, perhaps as much in the belief of the rest of the team as in the runs he makes. It is still fairly inexplicable that Sammy is captain and thus guaranteed pick; his bowling is passable but not good enough to justify his place in the side for that alone, while his batting is about as reliable as Hotspot on a warm day. On top of that, he captains like a man who has just discovered the game and uses the referral system seemingly in the belief that the amount of available reviews goes up every time you waste one. At the moment he is captain presumably though a lack of alternatives, but we worship at the alter of Athers, who wrote in his book that there being no one else is the worst reason to remain in charge. There is always someone, however unlikely, who can do the job.