"Last 2 innings over 60 vs Australia down under but not good to play anymore." That was how Denesh Ramdin reacted on Twitter when told that he was not in the frame for selection for the forthcoming Test series against India. The scores he was referring to were in the second innings of the Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne last year, when he scored 59, and the first innings of the next Test in Sydney, when he made 62. While those were meaty contributions, Ramdin might have found the reason for his sacking had he gone back a little further than just his last two Test innings.
In his previous 15 Test innings before that 59 at the MCG, Ramdin had made 201 runs at an average of 13.40. His highest during that period was 31, against England in St George's, in the first of those 15 innings. He didn't touch 30 in his last 14 innings, and was dismissed for a duck in the first innings of that Melbourne Test. His 59 in the second innings came with little at stake, as West Indies were already hurtling towards certain defeat.
There aren't too many complaints about Ramdin's glovework, but his batting stats have consistently failed to match up to his potential over a Test career that is now more than a decade long. His career average, after 74 Tests, is 25.87, which seems way below par given how he had shaped up in his first two series. In tough conditions in Sri Lanka and Australia, Ramdin showed fine defensive technique, put a price on his wicket, and averaged 65 balls per dismissal. Add to that his top-class glovework, and Ramdin, barely 20 then, seemed set for a long and distinguished international career.
A decade later, it's clear that his career has been a long one, but it's also hard to suppress the impression that he hasn't achieved all that he could have. The glovework has generally been pretty good, but in the last couple of years his batting has clearly fallen away. Since the beginning of 2014, the average has dropped to 22.10, with only four half-centuries - and a highest of 62 - in 31 innings. This slump has been particularly disappointing because the two years preceding 2014 had been his best as a Test batsman: in 14 Tests in 2012 and 2013 he averaged 44.29, with three hundreds - all overseas - in 22 innings.
Ramdin's batting average of 22.10 is tenth among 11 wicketkeeper-batsmen who have played at least 12 innings in Tests since the start of 2014. The only player with a poorer average is Brad Haddin, who had a wretched 18 months in Tests before retiring last year.
On the other hand, the wicketkeepers from the two teams currently doing battle in England have been exceptional with the bat recently. England's Jonny Bairstow has been on a tear, scoring three centuries - all 140-plus - in his last nine innings, and averaging more than 67 since the start of 2014, while Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed has 10 fifty-plus scores from 29 innings, and an exceptional average of 60.35. Apart from getting lots of runs, both Bairstow and Sarfraz have also been perfect in batting with the lower order: Bairstow has a strike rate of 65, and Sarfraz 76, and their ability to score quickly has allowed their teams to add vital runs down the order.
New Zealand's BJ Watling, on the other hand, has shown the ability to knuckle down and bat long periods, averaging 37 at a strike rate of 40, which means he bats 91 deliveries per dismissal, allowing other strokeplayers to flourish around him. Ramdin, however, has done neither, and his tendency to play loose shots fairly early in his innings has helped neither his team's cause nor his own.
Ramdin's supporters have raised the question regarding his replacement: is there a better wicketkeeper-batsman in West Indies' first-class set-up who has performed consistently and can replace Ramdin? Going by numbers from the last two domestic seasons in the West Indies, the one player who stands out is Shane Dowrich, who has named in the Test squad to keep wicket. In 16 matches in the regional four-day tournament over the last two seasons, Dowrich has scored 843 runs at an average of 49.58, with two hundreds and four fifties. In the 2014-15 season, he averaged 51.25 from ten games, and in 2015-16 he played six matches as wicketkeeper, at an average of 45.60. (In one match he didn't keep wicket; his overall average for the season was 38.83.)
Given his recent form with the bat, there is reason to back him. He is only 24, which means if he grabs his chance he could be a long-term prospect for West Indies. On Test debut against Australia last year, Dowrich batted at No. 4 and scored 70 against an attack that included the two Mitchells - Johnson and Starc - plus Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, in a match in which only one other West Indian batsman topped 40 across both innings.
Moreover, Dowrich has been around for a while now, having made his first-class debut in 2010, and has played 52 first-class games at an average of 36.80. In 48 of those 52 matches he has kept wicket, and has averaged a healthy 38.46 in those games.
Given that Ramdin is only 31, though, there is yet time for him to work on his batting to force his way back in the team through runs in domestic cricket. His ODI form in these last two-and-a-half years has been pretty good: 966 runs from 31 innings at 35.77, and a strike rate of 88.78. In 2014, he made 516 runs from 11 ODI innings including two hundreds, while in Tests that year he managed only 222 runs in ten innings. The ability is still there, but clearly West Indies need more from him as a batsman, especially given the fact that their top six isn't the strongest going around.
There is plenty of incentive for Ramdin to try and regain his spot: his Test tally of 2898 is 102 runs short of the 3000-mark, and 248 short of Jeff Dujon's tally of 3146, which is the highest by any West Indian wicketkeeper. The career average may never get as high as Dujon's 31.46, but if he goes past Dujon's aggregate and pushes that average close to 30 by the time he retires, Ramdin would have done fairly well in his last stint.
To start with, though, he needs to go back to domestic cricket, score plenty of runs, and prove that he deserves another chance.