December 11, 1999

West Indies get pre-Test workout against Auckland

This is the last real game before the West Indies meet New Zealand in the first of two Tests, the last Tests for both teams for this year. This game is of extreme importance to give an indication as to how organized the West Indies cricket team is at this moment.

The selections that Brian Lara had for this game suggested that, except for the absence of almost certainties for the Test, fast bowlers Merve Dillon and Courtney Walsh, at least two, maybe as many as four of the West Indian players, were on trial.

Darren Ganga has shown little since coming to international cricket. Surprisingly, he was given the nod over Adrian Griffith to open the batting in this last warm-up game with another Test certainty, Sherwin Campbell.

In next to no time, Ganga, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who, for no reason at all, was batting at No. 3 instead of Brian Lara, Lara himself and Ricardo Powell, perhaps another on trial, were out, West Indies 61-4.

This is a strange sequence. If Ganga played here, one has to think that he is "pencilled in" to play in the Test. What??!! Something, in my mind, does not compute here. What about Adrian Griffith? There has been talk that Griffith is injured, but not confirmed.

Does this again suggest that Chanderpaul will be batting at No. 3, after missing all of the Australian Tests earlier this year through injury, even though he did make a good double century last week? Why?

I suppose that Lara does have a point, if he bats at No. 4 in the Test. He batted at No. 4 or No. 5 (after the night watchman twice) against Australia and made 546 runs in four Tests, saving the West Indies from tremendous embarrassment in the process..

Ricardo Powell will probably get his Test debut, but he too must remember, or stand the consequences, that no successful Test batsman that I know of hits the ball in the air as often as he does, not even the mercurial Australian, Michael Slater.

Had it not been for a wonderful display of batsmanship by Sherwin Campbell, his century being one of the best innings that I have seen from him, if not indeed the best, and a very steadying and encouraging 65 by Jimmy Adams, the West Indies could have been in some trouble. Later, Ridley Jacobs pounded out a robust 86 not out as the West Indies managed 380.

So, only Brian Lara of the seasoned batsmen needs a good score. Hopefully, he will do it in the Test. At least Campbell, Chanderpaul and Adams, the other senior batsmen, have all gotten some useful, very recent, runs.

There was a great positive here, as noted after the first day's play by the team coach, Sir Vivian Richards. While the top half of the batting wobbled a bit, at least, according to Sir Viv, "the lads showed the fight that is necessary to play cricket at the very top of the scale." From 61-4, the overnight score was 330-7, a great recovery. Viv and Lara had a right to be somewhat pleased.

When the West Indies fielded, they looked somewhat lethargic. Here too could be a player or two under scrutiny.

If we are to assume that both Dillon and Walsh would play in the Test, then two of fast bowlers Franklyn Rose, Reon King, Pedro Collins and spinner Nehemiah Perry will not play in the Test.

Actually, Perry looked the best bowler on the second day, so perhaps he could convince the selectors that he should play. He is not a bad late order batsman, so playing him, with four fast bowlers, would not be a bad thought.

Rose worked up sporadic pace, but his line and especially his length was disappointing, for him. He normally swings the ball, so he much bowl at a fuller length. Today, he did not.

King, on the other hand, was bowling at too full a length, half volley length. Even these less than Test players at Auckland would relish that. The pace was acceptable, though.

Pedro Collins was also a bit of a disappointment, especially since Richard Morgan, the Auckland equivalent to Collins, left-handed seamer, that is, managed to worry all of the West Indians to finish up with 5-75.

The West Indian bowling on the second day did not "look flash", as the Australians would say. Of course, with the inclusion of Walsh and Dillon, great improvements would be gotten. The other bowlers are looking for a place.

Out of a scale of 10, West Indies batting would get 7 or 8. The bowling would probably get 6.