England v WI, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day May 28, 2012

It's a mental struggle - Gibson

West Indies' top order has failed consistently against England and something will have to change to give them any hope in the final Test

Marlon Samuels stood there at the non-striker's end. Head down, motionless. His helpless and sorry figure summed up the terrible state of West Indies batting so far in this series. The previous delivery, Ravi Rampaul, West Indies' last man, had gone chasing an away swinger from James Anderson, edging into the hands of the third slip. That meant Samuels missed out on scoring consecutive centuries in the same match by 24 runs.

This was the second time in the match that Samuels, who had lofted Graeme Swann out of the ground for 16 runs, including two straight sixes in the previous over, was left stranded in such a frustrated position. In the first innings, it was his captain Darren Sammy, who having compiled a resilient maiden century, played an irresponsible pull shot to be caught in the deep at a crucial juncture. Samuels and Sammy had re-built the West Indies house after the early collapse on the first day. West Indies could have crossed the 500-mark but Sammy's departure only hastened the visitors folding up the first innings at a good, but not good-enough total.

West Indies were not in a similar position today, but it takes just that bit of application and determination to turn a corner. Samuels is the best example of that theory working. Unfortunately none of his top order batsmen had learned from him, as well as their own mistakes.

Consider this: in the four innings played in the series so far, not one among the West Indies' top order has managed to score a half century. But the more incredulous fact is that the West Indies top-four comprising Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell, Kirk Edwards and Darren Bravo have scored an aggregate of just 203 runs in the two Tests. Samuels, on his own, has managed 310 runs.

At Lord's, Barath had survived two hours on the first day to return not out at lunch. But as soon as he returned to crease, he went and pushed at the ball which he had left alone all morning. In Nottingham, he was clueless about his position and committed to playing the balls once again he should have let go. In the second innings at Lord's, Powell had shown his weak mindset when he took on Stuart Broad, who had tempted him to go for the pull. The previous delivery, Powell had been alerted by his batting partner Shivnarine Chanderpaul, about two fielders being placed in the deep, yet Powell consciously fell into the trap.

Edwards' bad luck at Lord's, when he was run out inadvertently for no mistake of his in the second innings, did not go away as he reported sick yesterday and survived just two deliveries, recording his second duck. His form in the first innings of both Tests has been no better with the England fast bowlers exposing cracks in Edwards' poor defence easily. Bravo had been done by Chanderpaul's erroneous call on the first day of the series last Thursday, but on Sunday he repeated the same mistake Powell had made minutes earlier, chasing a wide delivery outside the off stump delivery and edging.

"This group of players has been criticised because of the decline of West Indies cricket. You come to England, you are playing the No. 1 team in the world, it is difficult to expect that you are going to come and beat them."
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson

Not only does it reveal a poor choice of shot selection from the West Indies batsmen but it also highlights a weak temperament. Ottis Gibson, West Indies coach, said the problem was a "combination of both" technical and mental skills: "It is not entirely a technical thing. It is being able to repeat your skill over and over again. That is what top teams in the world do: they test your technique; they test your character; they test your mental strength. Perhaps that is where we are falling short," Gibson said. "They are doing the hard work but they are not doing it for long enough."

Gibson said West Indies would utilise the two-day tour match in Leicester to not only give more batting time to some of their ailing batsmen but also probably reshuffle the batting order to encounter the top-order failure. He did not rule out moving one of the pair of Samuels or Bravo to No. 3 in place of the struggling Edwards. "We have got a good week off to go back and sort of reflect on where we are the moment and what we can salvage out of the rest of the series with one Test match to go and look at all the different options that we have available; may be moving Marlon or Darren to three or Darren."

Across the two Tests, West Indies have won many sessions of play while fighting hard in others. A good example came during the first session on the third morning when the pair of Ravi Rampaul and Kemar Roach put West Indies back in the game after the bowlers had been dominated by the pair of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen on the second afternoon. "We were outstanding yesterday to get eight wickets for 169 runs considering the way we had bowled the day before where we leaked runs from both ends," Gibson said.

He said by blocking one end, West Indies had successfully suffocated England captain Andrew Strauss, who found it hard to accelerate once he had scored his century. "We made it tough for him and then that caused him to get out," Gibson said. But his batsmen had not learned when they were put under the scanner.

"When England make it tough for us, we get out far easier than they do. That is a concern. But we have shown that when we do the right things we can cause problems to the England team but we are not doing it consistently enough at the moment."

Gibson said though he was disappointed that West Indies had lost the Wisden Trophy, he would still not be disheartened by the critics, who were expecting his team to beat a strong side like England. "This group of players has been criticised because of the decline, if you like, of West Indies cricket," Gibson said. "You come to England, you are playing the No. 1 team in the world, it is difficult to expect that you are going to come and beat them. We challenged them at Lord's, we challenged them here for periods as well but not for long enough to create any winning opportunities."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • G on May 31, 2012, 10:52 GMT

    Can you imagine WI cricket to be sucusessful without all these 12 guys not being in the sqaud? === correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't they all in the squad before Gibson arrived? They hardly performed miracles themselves

  • shantiratnam on May 31, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    we all know how much of greats cricket has seen from this lovely West Indies, and we all know not only batting everything will be a mental struggle if West Indies cannot find anyone better than Ottis Gibson to be their coach. Gibson and Sammy have survived too long thanks to the focus of the WICB and the public being on the WICB case against Gayle. In a time when West Indies cricket would be genuinley and consistantly rise Sammy and Gibson will not survie in their current roles. It's not a military team - its a cricket team which has to compete with competitive teams around the rest of the world - the issues Gibson is focusing on will never get the best for cricket in West Indies. Bravo, Pollard, Samuels, Smith, Narine, Bishoo, Chandrapaul, gayle, edwards, russel, roach sarwan. Can you imagine WI cricket to be sucusessful without all these 12 guys not being in the sqaud? They can beat any team if they're given the freedom to play together and focus on cricket. make bravo captain.

  • John on May 31, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    @Sinhaya on (May 31 2012, 01:05 AM GMT) You say "Gayle, Russell and Pollard will be far better against the England bowlers" Fact is that Gayle aved 25 last time he played in England and WI have been far more competitive this time round. Re Russell - you know very well that ODI/T20 form does not necessarily get carried to test level and in different conditions too. Edwards was averaging around 50 pre tour and besides with Pollard and Russell - where would they play? The prob positions have been 1,2 and 3 and that's not where these 2 guys play. I'm guessing one could play alongside Sammy but Sammy has averaged 46 with the bat in these tests. Would you seriously expect Pollard/Russell to do better than that?

  • Prashan on May 31, 2012, 1:05 GMT

    @JG2704, Russell has a batting average of 32 in ODIs. Just one test is not suffice to get an idea of his test credentials. He needs to be given more chances. Even Pollard must be given a chance at test level to prove his worth. At least they will score bravely and score something rather than acting like sitting ducks which applies to Barath, Powell and Kirk Edwards. It has been the frail top order of Windies that has been their downfall so far.

  • John on May 30, 2012, 21:23 GMT

    MrPontingToYou on (May 30 2012, 15:32 PM GMT) Again , I'm responding to a person who said that these guys can't do any worse with the BAT than the current crop. Pollard aves 37 in 1st class cricket at a much lower level and as far as I'm aware he has played no 4 day cricket outside of WI - definitely none in England. Going straight from IPL to England (different format/different conditions) with Pollard's at best ok record would likely end in serious disaster. As for Russell - yes you said before that he bowled on a very flat track but then if he is an all rounder you'd have to say he failed with the bat in that match. Has he played any 4 day games in England etc? There is probably a better argument for Russell but to me Pollard would end up being a poor man's Sammy. You certainly can't say why is Pollard being ignored when looking at his stats and the levels/conditions he's played at.

  • Sharon on May 30, 2012, 19:31 GMT

    @5wombat - you making good point about India. How they must hate to see West Indies doing so well. @landl47 - yes condition sublime for batting if England 710-7..... 544, etc. What is wrong with India batting if they cannot make those score but England can? Explanation can only be that India batting not very good on good batting pitch, or England bowling very good on good batting pitch. Either way - India outclassed.

  • Dummy4 on May 30, 2012, 18:37 GMT

    i wish more of w i players were playing for record may we would have a winning team

  • Richardson J. on May 30, 2012, 15:40 GMT

    It is quite obvious that the top order, one to four, is not prepared for this challenge. There is also a need for runs from the wicketkeepers slot. Please stop this talk about Bravo being Lara-like; currently, this is obviously not so. Changes are needed - post haste. Yes, give Gayle another look, he understands the gravity of the situation and actually brings some maturity to the team. Simmons would certainly be a better option that any of the four. Move young Bravo to #3; move Shiv and Samuels could be moved up the order; Russell and/or Dwayne Bravo brought in as all-rounders. There is the Pollard option. Additionally, Narine has proven his worth and should be given an opportunity immediately.

    However, more importantly, there needs to be a better arrangement between the IPL's schedule and that of the ICC.

  • Dummy4 on May 30, 2012, 15:36 GMT

    Selectors please don't destroy KIRK EDWARDS any further. He is a promising #3 & we need him for the home series. A stint in the ENG league will solve his problems. He just needs a rest to clear his head.

  • anthony on May 30, 2012, 15:32 GMT

    @ jg2704, not sure if you know that much about russell and pollard, but both have done well in the 4 day game. pollard averages 37 with the bat, and altho his bowling avg is'nt that great, his bowling has improved recently. not saying pollard is a certain test cricketer, but i think if he carries on with first class cricket he may well become one. russell has a bowling avg of 21, an excellent strike rate of 38, and two first class centuries already, and somehow you don't think he can be a worthy test player..? i already told you, its silly to judge him on the one test he played on a dead galle pitch, he came in to bat when the score was already over 550 with no time to build an innings, and yes he only took 1 wicket in the match... but that score and the fact that gayle scored 333 should tell you the kind of pitch it was. cant judge a man so early on stats alone. russell is a special talent, and should at 8 instead of sammy.

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