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Writer with the Trinidad Express

No backbone in West Indies' batting

Apart from the 21-year-old Kraigg Brathwaite, no other batsman showed much promise in the series against New Zealand

Garth Wattley

July 1, 2014

Comments: 25 | Text size: A | A

Kraigg Brathwaite, who looks more productive and able since his recall, lends stability to West Indies' line-up © WICB

Rain, rather than their batsmen, became West Indies' best hope of not losing the Test series once Brendon McCullum declared overnight and asked them to chase 308 on the last day at Kensington Oval.

Rain did not fall long enough to save them.

So for the second Test rubber in succession against New Zealand, and third overall, West Indies were losers. It was an accurate reflection of the way they played. But the tale of this series for West Indies was not so much what happened, but what did not occur in the three matches.

Kirk Edwards, batting at No. 3 averaged 27.40. At No. 4 Darren Bravo managed 37.00. Among the batsmen, only opener Kraigg Brathwaite, Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul averaged 40 or better.

In contrast, New Zealand's one-down man, Kane Williamson, was the series top scorer with two centuries, 413 runs and an average over 82. Jimmy Neesham at No. 6 averaged 46.33. He was one of five tourists who managed better than 46.

West Indies' top batsmen, however, were yet again unsteady in their contributions. The result was a first-innings total of 262 in the first Test at Sabina Park that saw them concede a lead of 246, which ultimately condemned them to a 186-run defeat.

In that effort, Edwards and Bravo between them contributed zero. In the second innings, they combined for 26, while last man Shane Shillingford made a Test-best 53 not out in what was by then a lost cause.

Much better would come from both the top-order batsmen later on, with significantly better results for their side.

In the second Test in Trinidad, Bravo shrugged off the mental shackles that had produced a season of indifferent batting following his premature departure from New Zealand last December. He made a highly disciplined 109, highlighted by his studious judgement of the balls to leave. In combination with Brathwaite, who fashioned a refreshingly positive first Test hundred, Bravo set up West Indies' first innings that allowed the bowlers to put the side back in the series.

Edwards was also pivotal. His confident-but-not-chancy 55 in tandem with Brathwaite steadied a shaky innings at 16 for 2. For once Gayle and Chanderpaul were not key figures in a batting revival, although a typical Gayle onslaught finished off the match.

But even in losing that game because of a poor first-innings effort, the dogged New Zealand lower-order resistance from BJ Watling and Mark Craig, playing just his second Test, was instructive. It was the kind of approach that the visitors employed more often than the home team; the reason why they always seemed more likely to have the better of the series.

Edwards made 58 and 10 and Bravo 24 and 40 in the third Test. For the positions in the order they occupy and the time and hope invested in them as the backbone of the batting in the coming years, the series did not represent a genuine step forward for either player. Both still do not force the bowlers to come up with different plans to dismiss them, hence their patchy records.

While he was relatively steady with the bat, Ramdin's wicketkeeping suffered from lapses in concentration and his decisions about when to go on the defensive and when to attack

More encouraging was the way 21-year-old Brathwaite came back to Test cricket. An accumulator by nature, he suffered from not being able to score regularly while at the crease. But in recent months, Brathwaite, always the calm, patient type, has been working on getting the ball away more often, especially against the spinners, and his 129 upon his recall at the Queen's Park Oval suggested that a more able, productive player was now in position to give stability to the West Indies top order. So did his average of 72.33. Such a presence is needed more than ever now since Gayle, 34, and never fully fit during this series, looked to be getting closer to the end of his Test career at least.

West Indies at this point are not a team with a well-developed spine in their batting. They are like a man with brittle bones creaking under the weight of his body. The side needs spinal surgery. The repeated failures of Kieran Powell, dropped for Brathwaite after the first Test, must be an ongoing cause for concern for team management and the selectors.

The problems seem not so pressing when it comes to bowling. The new-ball pair Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor came back from long absences from the game to have satisfactory series. Roach, sidelined for close to a year with a shoulder problem, got better and better from first Test to third to end with 15 wickets after having not played a competitive match until the opening game at Sabina.

Taylor, whose rehabilitation was confirmed after he played a full season for Jamaica in the regional four-day tournament, started strong but did not finish as well as Roach. But he stayed healthy and his three-wicket spell on the second afternoon in the second Test created the first crucial swing in the match.

Like Taylor and Roach, the 6ft 7in Sulieman Benn was on the comeback trail against New Zealand. And he used his height and arm ball to great effect for 14 wickets with his left-arm spin.

In a perfect world however, Roach should not have been a starter at Sabina Park, nor been needed in this series at all. But he took the new ball ahead of Shannon Gabriel, who had played all season for Trinidad and Tobago. But given his chance in the second Test on his home ground, Gabriel bowled with the same lack of incisiveness that has marked his international career to date. It meant that the selectors felt compelled to turn to Jason Holder for his first Test in the final game in Barbados. He did his cause no harm with a creditable showing with the ball, but especially with the bat, getting his first 50 as the lower order delayed victory for New Zealand.

The decision to include a fifth bowler, Shane Shillingford, did not have the hoped-for impact. New Zealand even had the luxury of declaring in their second innings on the fourth day. Shillingford, back for a second time after problems with his action, and unable to bowl his doosra, was not the same bowler in the two games he played. And in this series, West Indies could not call on Sunil Narine once the West Indies board stuck to policy and did not consider him after he missed the pre-series training camp.

That said, when able to call on their best bowlers, West Indies have a unit that can cause the opposition problems. The difficulty however, as with the batting, is the reserves. There are not any of proven quality, save, arguably, for injury-prone Ravi Rampaul. It is an uncomfortable situation to be in, given the fitness history of 30-year-old Taylor and Roach, 26, and the scheduling of international cricket, which, as this series showed, can make T20 standout Narine a non-starter.

The selection panel, coach Ottis Gibson and new skipper Denesh Ramdin face challenges aplenty.

While he was relatively steady with the bat, Ramdin's wicketkeeping suffered from lapses in concentration and his decisions about when to go on the defensive and when to attack - especially when pressing for victory in Trinidad - were sometimes questionable. He was the antithesis of his counterpart, McCullum, in this regard.

Ramdin must learn fast from this series. But his players need to do so even more quickly. The signs though, like some of the weather in this last Test, are not too bright.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

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Posted by   on (July 5, 2014, 15:39 GMT)

I believe WI and NZ are actually not that far apart. The first test was actually decided more by dropped catches than the score line shows. This series boiled down to WI simply not sticking with the same line up in the last test due to a lack of confidence by the selectors. The Trinidad test was not a fluke. Even the final test could have looked very different if Ramdin was awake to catch Williamson when he was on 6.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2014, 1:07 GMT)

Maybe.... maybe not. But before you look inward and navel gaze Windies, understand that you get made to look bad when you play a better team. NZ is a far better test team (and only getting better and better) than you are. We don't have your issues of having several countries amalgamating and then everyone calling for their own.... When this should be an advantage really. Wanting to do well and applying yourself is not enough. Our examination is tougher than yours b/c we are better - it's not complicated. As the worse team, application and all that stuff does not come into it. We're better than you are... there's your reason for losing. Move on.. get better. Then you can whinge. Less IPL.. more love of real cricket.. fans remembering what proper cricket is.. those things will help.... You were outplayed because five days is too long for your gang mentally at the moment. And our bowlers are better. And some other stuff. NZ is top 3 in the world really anyway...

Posted by   on (July 4, 2014, 14:33 GMT)

Folks keeps talking about Narine.Narine is a 20/20 bowler.he has only 24 balls to bowl. Batsmen must go after him or any bowler for that matter.Thats the nature of the game. In tests there is no need to go after him. They can be patient and wear him down. I seem to remember another mystery spinner...Mendis where is he now?

Posted by simonviller on (July 4, 2014, 13:16 GMT)

I really want to hear something new from WI supporters ! First bring back Gayle ,Pollard ,Sarwan and Taylor and we beat the world IN T20'S .Get rid of Sammy he is upsetting the team balance ,but things remain the same .Now fire Gibson and selectors is the rallying cry ; this should do the trick . Wake up people and check WI winning records in the past 17 years and you'll find that the same thing has been going on without Gibson ,Sammy or these selectors . It's obvious you are missing the point here guys .

Posted by sheru-sher on (July 3, 2014, 17:47 GMT)

West Indies management need to build a new team from the younger players and simply discard the recycled players. New Zealand went to naught and are now a competitive team after rebuilding. Drop Chanderpaul , Gayle, Samuels, Benn, Taylor, Shillingford and retire them now just as was done to Lara. Ask them not to return please.It is better to lose with a young , hungry team than to be humiliated with rich old prima donnas who "manage' their picks on the side.

Posted by   on (July 3, 2014, 14:55 GMT)

Why it is that there is no word from the coach? Is he in hiding? Sad.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (July 2, 2014, 21:57 GMT)

Anyone else noticed Benns strike rate in Test cricket? It's almost 90. That's a wicket every 15 overs. That's about 30 more deliveries per wicket than most good bowlers. Selection, Selection, Selection. This just proves that the magnificent FC records for WI spinners are massively inflated, and get exposed when they hit International level.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 16:50 GMT)

@Rally_Windies, please change ur name to Gibson_basher, before taking WI coaching job, Gibson had Eng bowlers ranked no.1 in test. @Brian Bradshaw Logie was fired by Canada (nuff said), test-battle experience? it was the inexperienced ones that produced. @imposter u dont pick a discipline team with Benn in it afterall its his discipline that kept him away from WI team since the WC. dropping Blackwood for Shillingford wasnt the reason WI lost, but captaincy, dropped catches and the fact that Holder only got 10 overs in each innings was the main reason for the lost.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 16:47 GMT)

First of all, I must congratulate both teams for a very exciting Test Series. I'm keeping it simple and straight to the point: West Indies' decision to discard Narine from the playing XI(and the squad) was New Zealand's gain.I thought Brathwaite batted beautifully and more importantly, with a calm head. The selectors and Ramdin's decision to play 5 specialist bowlers in the last match backfired on them. Ramdin was not proactive and didn't even showed any signs of it. The Team's support staff also need some inspiration. Gayle showed us that he does not belong in the Test arena, Shiv is at the end of a productive career. 2 very large shoes to fill.Where will they find these "Progressive" rookie players from???Blackwood, Narine, Carter, Bishoo, Permaul, Johnson, Carlos Brathwaite. The key to West Indies' success in the future lies in the development of young cricketers, playing more First Class cricket, quality pitches favoring both batsmen and bowlers. And last, let cricket prosper.

Posted by RealWI on (July 2, 2014, 12:02 GMT)

Here once again the trini are covering the trini's. Ramdin shouldn't be in the team, he dropped several regulations catches in this series. He dropped Williamson when he was on 10, he went on and score 161. Poor captaincy was also a contributing factor. In the first test match, a Shillligford was given the ball last, even after Marlon. How many times in this series we see the ball flying through the vacant 3rd slips position. Nicolas Pooran should have been in the team. He is better keeper and a far superior batsman and he is 10 years younger. The fact is, Ramdin isn't the best keeper in Trinidad that honour belong to katwaroo.

Posted by creekeetman on (July 2, 2014, 10:52 GMT)

even though the batters didn't quite produce, there is hope still in the younger players like bravo, Edwards, blackwood and Braithwaite.. once again gayle produced a completely meaningless average of 40, like I have said before gayle either scores a useless quick fifty, a meaningless big hundred on a dead pitch, or fails when really needed. he and samuels should never play tests again. however the real concern for wi is really their bowling, only one test class fast bowler, and really not much in reserve. ramdin seems to be the right man to captain wi, but spare a thought for him having to captain, keep, and play the role of a leading batsman more often than not due to top order failures.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 10:34 GMT)

It has long been obvious that West Indies' major issue is the batting (rather than the bowling, especially with Roach and Taylor fit). So why the selectors decided to omit a batsman for a bowler (well though Holder played) is a mystery. WI badly need Dwayne Bravo to bring some balance to the team. Dwayne in turn needs to remember that test cricket is not the same as T20.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 10:12 GMT)

Ramdin was set up. Who in their right mind would change a winning team that trounced New Zealand by 10 wickets by dropping a batsman and picking an additional spinner. He eventually got no wickets in the match that is Shillingford. West Indies lost the match in the selection of the squad.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 6:29 GMT)

Stats may not give you the full picture, but there are some basics that has to be met while selecting a team. Pure batsmen have to have an average in the late 30s -say 38 and above in first class cricket to have any chance of doing well in tests. So too bowlers have to have a strike rate of 3 wickets per match to qualify for tests. For example Gabriel has taken 2 wickets per match in first class cricket, so whatever he has done in tests is a par performance from him. You cannot expect more. Why can't WI try Kieran Pollard in tests? He has a far better first class average than Leon Johnson or even Lendl Simmons.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 1:47 GMT)

How is it possible to write an article about batting in this series and not mention Blackwood's well crafted 63 runs on debut...and the disappointment and his face when he got out was encouraging?

Posted by Robster1 on (July 2, 2014, 1:26 GMT)

Bravo is potentially a really class batsman. All he needs is mental application. A full season playing county cricket in England might remedy this issue. Blackwood and Brathwaite show potential, Taylor and Roach are very useful quicks. Holder looks most promising long term. Add Narine in too and the future's quite bright.

Posted by dragline on (July 1, 2014, 23:43 GMT)

West Indies need a tactician. How can one justify playing six(6) batsmen? All they needed to do was replace Gabriel with Holder and nothing more. Please contract Steven Fleming as tactician and Wasim Akram as bowling coach. Wasim might be able to help us develop a left arm swing bowler.

Posted by   on (July 1, 2014, 21:33 GMT)

I wrote on day3 that windies were about to lose the test and the series simply because the selectors keep making terrible errors,it seem to me that these guys do not see that wi major problem is the batting,therefor how can they leave out blackwood a young batsman with much potential,and play an extra bowler.Jason holder bowled only 20 overs why?There is lots of questions that need to be ask.cricinfo can you please publish my comments.thanks.

Posted by Impostor on (July 1, 2014, 19:47 GMT)

WICB have no one else to blame but themselves for the situation they are now in. They have become the laughing stock of the cricketing world. In their quest (starting with Hunte and his cronies), over the past few years to re-instill some discipline back into their team, they have somehow, finally ended up with fairly well-behaved team, but with complete lack of talent. They have traded skills for discipline, it seems. I would never be able to explain how players like Edwards or Gabriel can ever be given a test cap. They probably wouldn't even be considered for club cricket in the other countries. So now they have all these young "disciplined" players without the basic cricket techniques, but lots of test match experience hanging around for selection. The selectors, I feel, do not have the "knack" for seeing raw talent. They go by runs scored in club matches. They ought to be reminded that these runs are scored off equally mediocre bowling and shouldn't be the main gauge for selection.

Posted by Rally_Windies on (July 1, 2014, 19:40 GMT)

I think using washed up mediocre cricketers who could not cut it in Test cricket as selectors is a bad idea ... They have no Test experience so how can they be expected to pick teams based on conditions and oppositions ?

Gibson is in a learning phase just as Darren Bravo is ...

the EGO's of the coach and selectors is the BIGGEST problem WICB has ...

the Coach and Selectors can not stand players who know better than they do ... and they are too childish and juvenile to heed the advice of battle tested Test players ..

The Idea of Gibson, Courtney Brown, Robert Haynes telling Chanderpaul and Andy Roberts and Desmond Haynes where to shove their ideas .... is just ridiculous ...

Posted by ken51 on (July 1, 2014, 19:31 GMT)

One needs to look deeper than the inconsistency of the current crop of players to identify the multi-level crisis in WI .Among them: a crop of selectors who could never command any permanent place in a West Indian side,and whose repeated selectoral mistakes were crowned by the amazing decision to play 5 bowlers in the Barbados Test.Or should we look at the fact that Stuart Williams is the batting coach.STUART WILLIAMS? Did anyone look at his test averages or videos of his batting before deciding this? The recent addition of Curtley Ambrose hides the deficiencies of Otis Gibson as a bowling coach.Did anyone consider HIS test record? The WI Board consistently invests in mediocrity, a policy sure to produce mediocre performances.

Posted by android_user on (July 1, 2014, 18:58 GMT)

think it's safe to say that west Indies should look past Shillingford as he is a passenger without his doosra. that being said, WI should produce wickets that will assist fast bowling when Bangladesh arrive as it is our strength and their weakness. pick ONE spinner, Narine or Benn, and give someone like Miguel Cummins a call instead of Gabriel as his lone test at home showed that he is not test quality. as for batting, Leon Johnson is very consistant I'm the middle order from past Wi-A and high performance scores.Bravo should be demoted to 5, Blackwood groomed for the top order and bravo at no.6

Posted by   on (July 1, 2014, 14:19 GMT)

Time to axe Gibson and the selectors immediately!. Bring on Gus Logie, Roger Harper, Clive Loyd in a mentor's role along with Sir Gary.While former greats don't nessesarily be good coaches, we need their imput based on experience!.Revamp the management team and find the vissionaries with great empowerment and man-management skills!.They may have never played the game but are skilled at uplifting others to their untapped genius and self belief!.

Posted by   on (July 1, 2014, 14:14 GMT)

Darren Bravo's inconsistencies along with Kirk Edwards has got to be a headache for the WEST INDIES-fans.Chris Gayle is on the decline in his test career; Chanderpaul is also coming to the end of a great career; Edwards, Bravo must come to understand that they are the backbone of the team.What poor showing, no fight from these guys. How can Holder & ,Shillingford negotiate bowling that the top order cant seem to. Brathwaite and Blackwood are a breath of fresh air to this team.Please keep Darren Bravo away from 20/20 cricket. Time to give Simmons an honest run in the test side. WINDIES NEED to win.

Posted by spanishwestindian on (July 1, 2014, 12:48 GMT)

No mention of Blackwell? He was unlucky to be dropped after one test where he performed creditably.

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