West Indies in the ascendancy - Gibson
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson has said his team is in the "ascendancy" in the first Test in Galle despite the Sri Lankan openers responding strongly after following on, and added that the tour was the beginning of a "stabilisation process" in West Indies cricket after almost 15 years of decline.
"There are some goals that we want to achieve. It's 15 years, some people say, that West Indies cricket has been in the doldrums," Gibson said after the fourth day's play. "I say we have not played well as we can play in those 15 years. I think it will take at least five years to get back to where we want to be but at the same time you have to start from somewhere. This is the start of a stabilisation process. You've got to stabilise before you move forward."
After piling on 580 in the first innings, with former captain Chris Gayle smashing 333, West Indies bowled out Sri Lanka for 378 and enforced the follow-on. Seamer Kemar Roach and offspinner Shane Shillingford shared seven wickets but the Sri Lankan openers, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Tharanga Pranavitana, responded strongly in the second innings, finishing the day on 89 without loss.
"We controlled the game and probably are still in the ascendancy at the moment. We are over 100 runs ahead and tomorrow we will come with the sort of attitude to have a go and see what happens," Gibson said. "If we get a couple of wickets early who knows what will happen. The guys have to believe that they can and still get something positive out of the game. We had a lot of positives but winning would be the ultimate."
Shillingford, with 4 for 123, grabbed his best returns in a Test innings so far and Gibson said his inclusion in the side, with Sulieman Benn set to return for the next Test, was a sign of changing times in West Indies cricket. "Most people in the world expect Caribbean cricket to have four fast bowlers because that's what our success as a nation was built on. The reality though is now in the Caribbean and around the world the wickets are a lot different to the way they used to be.
"We have the option now of playing two spinners whereas in the past you may never see two spinners playing in the same match for West Indies."
Gibson, who was formerly England's bowling coach, said the team had to gradually develop a winning habit. "I came to the West Indies with a plan of [developing a] a mindset of winning. I've always been a winner when I played cricket. I was a winner in a winning side of attitude and we have people in the team that share that sort of attitude.
"We got together during a camp in Barbados and spoke of what we can achieve from this tour and people are beginning to show a lot more belief in themselves. For the last 10-15 years or so West Indies struggled and when you get beat often it become a habit almost. Our players at the moment were just getting used to the fact that they weren't winning."