The West Indian batters displayed no character while batting…….
In July, at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua, the West Indies completed an innings and 219 runs victory over Bangladesh. Dismissed for 43 and 144 it was a pathetic batting display and they were roundly excoriated by fans and pundits. The damage was done by pace. The surface was sprightly, the Dukes ball swung and seamed, and the bowling good.
Kemar Roach, who took 5/8 in the first innings, was especially effective against Bangladesh’s supply of lefthanders by adhering to a tight line from round the wicket, angling the ball in before moving it ever so slightly away. In the second innings, it was the velocity generated by Shannon Gabriel that hurt the visiting batsmen.
Much was made of their inability to handle pace and an insistent offstump line. The consensus was that if Bangladesh were to make strides as a Test team then they had a whole lot of work to do before they could be seen as serious adversaries in cricket’s longest format.
West Indies in Tests away from home since 1-1-2013
Won at Sharjah, Bulawayo, Leeds
— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) December 2, 2018
Recently, at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh returned the favour. Now hosting the West Indies, Shakib Al Hasan and his men made it as uncomfortable for the visiting Caribbean side as the Jason Holder led team made it for them a few months ago.
The weapon of choice on this occasion was spin. A turning wicket and a battery of spinners – not a single fast bowler was selected at Dhaka – left the West Indies batsmen floundering like novices, looking as lost as kindergartners attempting the work of postgraduate students.
It was bad that most of the visiting batsmen appeared to be technically incapable of coping with the quality and relentlessness of the all-spin attack. What was worse, however, is that some of them appeared foolhardy in their approach to the challenge that confronted them.
Kieran Powell, to cite the most striking example, a man tasked with the critical job of opening the batting, premeditatedly charged down the pitch at Shakib in the second innings and was casually stumped when he ran past the ball. It was not the first time he had been dismissed in this manner this series. He was similarly reckless during his side’s second innings in Chittagong and was stumped off the first ball he received. Considering his less than satisfactory performance since regaining his spot, he and the selectors will need to reevaluate his role.
"We just didn't get anything together with the bat" – Kraigg Brathwaite after being whitewashed in the #BANvWI Test series.
— ICC (@ICC) December 3, 2018
Sunil Ambris showed some promise in the first Test, but then came into the second test and with his side in peril, got out to a mindless shot when he galloped past a ball that bowled. Having failed to set the world alight in a Test career now six games old, he ought to have been intent on putting a much bigger price on his wicket.
Roston Chase is regarded as one of the team’s better players of spin. But his needless airy drive to the fielder at extra-cover, a ball he played “on the up” as they say, should have him covering his eyes should he be shown a replay. It was a rather soft dismissal.
If Floyd Reifer, the West Indies’ batting coach, was unaware of the areas where special attention should be paid, he will surely have some idea of his charges deficiencies by now. Viewing from the pavilion, he’d have witnessed a fair degree of ineptness in his batsmen’s ability to combat the turning ball. He’d have noticed that the first five West Indian batsmen were bowled in the first innings. He’d have seen the way Kraig Brathwaite, the acting captain and the side’s most senior and most reliable batsman, allowed a delivery to sneak through the gap he left between bat and pad, and that the batsman exacerbated matters by closing his blade as the ball went by. He’d have noticed the uncertain forward defensive lunge a number of his batsmen employed, praying to middle or to miss the spinning ball.
Having said all that, it is clear that thriving in such challenging conditions is not a simple undertaking. The odd batsman will get the unplayable delivery, one such as the grubber that accounted for Shai Hope in the first innings at Dhaka. But the batsman, playing in unfriendly conditions, has to give himself the best chance to succeed. He has to be prepared to battle hard, to have faith in his defensive technique and his ability to survive.
Shane Dowrich has done that this series. He hasn’t scored a mountain of runs but he has shown fight, a passable technique and has looked more accomplished than most of his colleagues.
The West Indies’ top scorer for the series was Shimron Hetmyer. His ultra-aggressive approach has borne dividends, allowing him to smash an impressive 222 runs in the two games. Nine sixes and a four in his second innings 93 off only 92 deliveries may seem improper to some purists, but one can hardly quibble with success. He is a special talent. His exquisite footwork allows him to play spin with the kind of uncommon freedom few batsmen can emulate. It has to be said, however, that his forcefulness sometimes crosses over into recklessness. But he is 21; he will learn.
And so here we are. Having been utterly defeated by the team ranked second from bottom, the West Indies will now tackle the one sitting second from top.
England visits the Caribbean in January for three Tests. On the whole, batting conditions should be less tricky and there is likely to be more seam than spin. Still, if the West Indies are to prosper in the series, and beyond, their aptitude for an approach to batting will need to be enhanced.