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Two players who have been in and out of the side have shown patience and maturity to help WI cope with the loss of several seniors
October 16, 2011
Just as too much can be made of West Indies' successive ODI wins, Thursday and yesterday in Dhaka, it is impossible to downgrade them, as they inevitably and widely will be, as "only" over Bangladesh.
For all their appalling overall record, the Bangladeshis are not utter pushovers at home. Their inconsistency and aversion to fast rib-cage bowling has been their major downfall (such as their 58 all out against West Indies and 78 all out against South Africa in the World Cup). But they beat New Zealand in all four of their ODIs a year ago and have often pushed others hard.
More to the point, these were comprehensive victories by a West Indies team, according to coach Ottis Gibson, "building for the future" around the young brigade. And they represented real spirit in disregarding the disappointment of the last-over defeat in the one-off T20I a few days earlier.
As they were in the Caribbean early in the year, when West Indies came back from losses in their first three ODIs against Pakistan and India to take the last two, the most senior players - Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan - are all missing in Bangladesh. Shivnarine Chanderpaul is present but only for the two Tests.
In their stead, Lendl Simmons, 26, and a West Indies player since 2006, and Marlon Samuels, 30, with 119 ODIs to his name, are the seniors who have set the example and skillfully executed the game plans, never a West Indian strength.
Simmons' two innings have yielded 122 and 80, Samuels 88 and 71. Their second-wicket partnerships, setting up the results, have been 111 and 150. In the past, their inability to assess the state of the game and their inconsistency had repeatedly cost each his place.
It explains why Simmons has had only 31 ODIs in almost five years for West Indies and, Samuels, along with a two-year suspension over his contacts with an Indian bookmaker, 119 in the 11 years since his debut match.
Both built their scores with patience and maturity previously lacking throughout their chequered careers. They appear to appreciate that this is their last chance, and finally understand their roles. They have taken their time to weigh up the bowling. Once settled they have accelerated. It is a refreshing change.
|Both built their scores with patience and maturity previously lacking throughout their chequered careers. They appear to appreciate that this is their last chance, and finally understand their roles|
Simmons has had a roller-coaster ride along the way. His most recent exit from the team followed his struggles in an ODI series in Australia in early 2010, and lasted a year. Reinstated for the home encounters against Pakistan and India, he dominated the batting in the ODIs only to be dropped again after failures in the Tests.
He has been chosen only for the ODIs in Bangladesh, a premature decision as the three openers picked for the Tests are young and with virtually no experience. Adrian Barath is 21 and, with seven Tests and a hundred on debut, has with him Kraigg Brathwaite (18) and Kieran Powell (21), each with a solitary Test.
With Simmons' form, he will surely be in both squads for the far tougher tour of India that immediately follows.
From the time Samuels was surprisingly summoned to the series in Australia in December 2000, aged 19, he has been as pleasing a strokeplayer as West Indies have had since Brian Lara.
Had he put such natural talent to best use, he would be averaging more than his 29 in Tests and 31.39 in ODIs. The problem was, always too eager to indulge himself, he found silly ways of getting out. In the 2007-08 Tests in South Africa, he was just finding the reliability that is selectors' priority (average 52.33) when his ICC sanction put him on hold for two years.
Once it was served, he scored heavily at both domestic and international level. He is now a crucial piece in Gibson's team-building jigsaw, his recently cleared illegal action providing captain Darren Sammy with an additional offspin option.
Not everything has gone according to plan in Bangladesh, but enough to make it satisfying. If there is a problem it is that Simmons and Samuels have left very little for anyone else.
Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 yearsFeeds: Tony Cozier
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