March 23, 2008

The batting needs to click

To score runs on a slow wicket is not easy, you have to focus on occupying the crease a lot more

'Shot selection is crucial, especially when you are driving' © Getty Images
Chris Gayle

I have to start this first diary entry for this new home series with something that I have talked regularly about before. What I have always stressed on is that our batting needs to do the job, and we have to get the runs on the board. For the last couple of months the bowlers have been doing a terrific job for us. Jerome Taylor, Daren Powel, Fidel Edwards and Dwayne Bravo have been turning up and working hard on the field.

Hopefully we, the batsmen, can put the runs on the board now and give the bowlers something to work with and as a team we can take it from there. It is not going to be easy, we are up against a top class team in Sri Lanka and they have one of the best attacks in the world. The reason I say one of the best attacks is because you have the likes of Chaminda Vaas and the world record holder for the most Test wickets Muttiah Muralitharan. Those two are the main strike bowlers and we all know how experienced those guys are. We are up against it but we are up to the challenge.

I’m pleased that the batsmen got a few good hits in the Carib Beer Series. Ramnaresh Sarwan just got a hundred, it’s good for me to be back in the middle and Shiv Chanderpaul got a double century as well. Denesh Ramdin also got a hundred so it is a matter of transforming that into the Test arena, being ready and turning up on the day. This is the first time Test cricket will be played in Providence but we played Sri Lanka at here once before but in a one-day international during the World Cup last year. Looking back at the World Cup game, I thought that for the first 45 minutes the ball did seam around a bit but after that it was definitely a different wicket. It was slow and there was some uneven bounce and that is something you have to take into consideration. It’s a good batting wicket so whoever gets in should definitely capitalize and score runs against Sri Lanka.

To score runs on a slow wicket is not easy, you have to focus on occupying the crease a lot more. Shot selection is crucial, especially when you are driving. You have to be very careful how you drive. Bowlers with a lot of variations can do well on these sorts of wickets so that is something to take into consideration as well both when we are batting and when our bowlers are bowling. It is the home ground for Sarwan and Chanderpaul and they are experienced and can assess the conditions quickly so we will have to use that to our advantage. On the other hand the Sri Lankans are very good at bowling on these sorts of surfaces; they know what it is like to bowl on flat wickets so that is another advantage for them.

The practice sessions were good. The guys got a bit of a run, things are looking good. We had our team meeting to assess the situation; reviewing Sri Lanka’s batting and bowling. Of course I can’t give out the secrets here.

We have a couple of fresh faces in the squad and I have to wish them well. We have Sulieman Benn and Amit Jaggernauth, who are new to the team and Ryan Hinds, who is back. We spent a lot of time assessing and contemplating the combination of the final eleven in the lead up to the game. We’re looking for a balanced eleven, with a combination of players who will be best suited for the game.

I am pleased for both of the young spinners selected. They have been getting quite a few wickets in first-class cricket so they deserve their call-up. Benn has been one of the most dominant left-arm spinners in the region along with Nikita Miller from Jamaica. We decided that we would go with Benn and see how he handles himself at this level. Now he has made his Test debut and big congratulations to him. He has already shown that he can handle himself well.

They have been fitting in to the team unit well. They don’t seem to be under any pressure. They look very relaxed and they have put in the work over the past few days. That is really good. They look hungry and that is impressive.

Everything has been going well with the new management team. Omar Khan the new manager has fit in well as has David ‘Willie’ Williams, the assistant coach, John Dyson the head coach, new analyst Richard Berridge and CJ Clarke, the new physiotherapist and Gerald Garcia the trainer. All in all, the support is there so we have to get the work done in the middle. I have to comment briefly on Jamaica winning the Carib Beer Championship. That’s a plus for us, the guys worked hard and deserve the title and I want to say thanks and congratulations to them.

And finally Digicel and Scotiabank put on the Digicel Scotiabank Cricket Experience and it is something that has never happened before in the Caribbean. It was good to be a part of it; I was happy to be among the kids, you could have seen the joy in their faces. I know this will continue and I have to say well done to Digicel and Scotiabank for putting it on. I went down there with Sarwan and Sewnarine Chattergoon and signed autographs and interacted and played with the kids and you could really see the delight in their faces. We had fun and I am happy to have been a part of it, the kids are the future and I was happy to give back a little to them. I am also sure it will get better as we go on.