West Indies v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Kingston, 4th day August 5, 2012

An important win for the West Indies hierarchy

The performance against New Zealand has earned the captain, coach and selectors some breathing room

The Sunday morning breeze in Kingston must have smelled extra fresh to the West Indies team management, especially after Shivnarine Chanderpaul had collected the final couple of runs to complete the team's 2-0 series victory over New Zealand. A West Indies side would have to go back ten years to 2002 in Bangladesh to find the last time they won back-to-back Tests in a series. The result this time was perhaps even more important for different people.

Chief selector Clyde Butts had put the series in perspective back in June, when he called it "our first test in terms of how we are moving forward". Currently Butts and fellow selectors Robert Haynes and Courtney Browne are on a curious three-month extension of their terms - since, according to the West Indies Cricket Board, their performance had not yet been fully appraised when their tenures ended last month.

Coach Ottis Gibson will also see his three-year contract come to an end early next year. For captain Darren Sammy, another series loss against the team just above the West Indies in the Test rankings would have made talk of genuine improvement of the team even harder to justify.

This series win has earned the selectors, coach and captain some respite. Beating New Zealand convincingly is at least statistical proof that West Indies are moving forward. The Test rubber triumph, put together with the 2-0 T20 series win in Florida and the 4-1 ODI victory would seem to indicate that, like the weather systems currently earning attention in the Caribbean region, the team is gaining in strength.

Sammy would not accept that New Zealand, who went to Australia earlier this year and drew 1-1 were a weak side. "I think they were quite tough," he said. "In all the games they had chances but we capitalised on these key moments in most of the games and that's why we were victorious."

What Sammy did not say was that with the exception of the steady opener Martin Guptill, below-par batting throughout did not allow New Zealand to win the key moments. Also, in both Tests the tourists gave chances to the most dangerous West Indian batsmen. In Antigua, Chris Gayle had two let-offs in making 150, while in this last game in Jamaica, Marlon Samuels was put down both in his match-defining first-innings 123 and equally important second-innings 52.

It would be harsh, however, to say West Indies did not earn their victories. Sammy noted that at various times in the Tests, "performances came out from different players at different times". "When the team needed somebody to step up, someone always put their hand up," he said. "It contributed to us winning the series. The result here is the product of hard work."

Sunil Narine, with his many variations, Narsingh Deonarine, sometimes with the bat, sometimes with his underrated offspin, fast bowler Tino Best in his one Test and opening batsman Kieran Powell all had their moments against New Zealand. What is still missing is for more of the same players to put their hands up more often. At this stage West Indies in Tests still do not have the settled look that teams at the top end of the Test table usually have. Four different openers and three different combinations have been used in eight Tests so far this year. Injury and poor form has also meant that the bowling unit has changed almost from game to game.

Out of this muddle, however, a few have stood out. In the absence of a regular new-ball partner, Kemar Roach has carried the mantle of pace spearhead impressively.

"To be honest," Roach said, "it was quite tough but there was a job to be done for the West Indies and I am one of the leading bowlers, so obviously I have to lead from the front... I've been trying to bowl much straighter, obviously keeping the batsmen playing as much as possible."

His consistency of line and length has been so good that Roach is averaging 22.25 for his world-leading 39 wickets this year, most of them taken on slow West Indian pitches. The figures would have been even better if he did not overstep so often. Roach's front foot gets so close to the line that it is now standard for each of his dismissals to be checked by the TV umpire. It is a problem he has been working at correcting, but is clearly not solved yet.

Samuels' game, though, is about at its peak. Now 31, he is a man on a stated mission to make up for the two lost years that suspension from the game cost him. Finally he has learned to pace his innings, much in the way Gayle now does at the top of the order and Chanderpaul always has.

Always possessed of good technique and the ability to play the most exquisite strokes, Samuels is now a complete player, who is beginning to get the runs to prove it. So far in 2012 he has 589 at 84.14. His century at Sabina Park against a New Zealand attack that worried all his team-mates, was a masterclass in itself.

Maturity seems to come later for West Indians in this era. The trouble is, captains and coaches don't get such a long grace period. For now, though, Sammy and Gibson have earned some more time.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 8, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    Over the years WI fans have grown accustom to having Star Performers as capts ( Worrell, Sobers, LLoyd, Walsh, Lara, etc). But does a player have to be a star performer to be a good capt? Well let's look at a player who by no stretch of the imagination is a star performer, not with bat nor gloves. I speak of none other than Mr. M S Dhoni. Dhoni is a good batter & an avg keeper( check record), but no one can question his ability as a capt.( check record). Sammy & Dhoni r avg players ,with Dhoni a slight edge. He has played far more tests than Sammy. But they r strong character persons, never say die, tough competitors, good leaders, & deal with the press admirably. And if all India can support Dhoni, why must I bash my own? These vicious attacks on Sammy must stop.

  • Sam` on August 8, 2012, 7:07 GMT

    What, so it wasn't Sammy's decision to bowl a batsman who sends down part-time off-spin for 17 overs and get 4 wickets out of him? It wasn't his decision to set the field that took 10 of the 20 wickets that fell? That's how many dismissals fell to non-wicketkeeper catches in the game. It wasn't his decision to crowd the bat when Narine was bowling? What, he doesn't get any credit for the quite obvious unity the team has played with of late? Noooo, of course not - he only has an effect when things go POORLY doesn't he? Wake up to yourself. What did he do to help them win? Second-top scoring with his team at 6-110 I thought would have been an obvious one. Blind ignorance - people only see what they want to see.

  • ethel on August 8, 2012, 5:24 GMT

    Well, sammy is not doing a very good job at field placing if that is the the only reason he is there. Furthermore, his bowling changes is horrible. NZ did not play cricket and how many wickets did they spin bowler get? Where was the competition? So, how did sammy help? Can you tell me how and why was he able to get the team playing as a team. Do you know of any problems that would not cause the players not to play as a team. The umpire could have made the bowling changes and W I would have won the matches. And i am going to ask again what did Sammy do to help the team? Identify the problems!

  • kai on August 8, 2012, 4:41 GMT

    @estraker: I haven't followed the Gayle, WICB spat so I am not aware of what went wrong. You may be right there. But as far as I can see, Gayle as a player is indispensable, no doubt about that but Gayle as a captain will only create more controversies. Players like Gayle, KP, Ganguly, etc always get into some sort of controversy. Not good for the team. And as long as the Windies are winning, I don't see any reason for changing a winning combination. Finally, to answer your question, yes I play cricket everyday.

  • SWAMINATHAN on August 7, 2012, 23:43 GMT

    I think Sammy is necessary for Team WI only because he knows that he is at best a mediocre player, who is in the team for his captaincy. In other times when a performing player, like the best batsman was made the captain, there was widespread jostling for the post with players involving in politics, etc. all of which made the captain insecure and took a toll on his form, so WI lost both a captain & a very good player. The captain's form replicates in the uninspired team leading to below par performances. Now all that is avoided because of Sammy He is primarily a leader, a performing player only next, so he thinks deeply about his captaincy, about field placings, bowling changes, pacing of innings, etc... WI have finally got a thinking & talented captain, besides he does contribute his bit, rather well in a few matches but mostly just about par as a player. So guys, you take out Sammy, you take out the cement & the structure falls ..

  • ethel on August 7, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    kaidranzer,utter nonsense! have you ever played cricket? The coach tried to do is destroy those players like gayle, Chanderpaul and sarwan instead of coaching.I am of the impression that, Gibson, as a former bowler does nor know how to swing the new ball otherwise he would have shown his fast bowlers how to make it swing. These are some important things that he should have been concentrating on instead of trying to crucify people like Gayle for absolutely no reasons........and by the way they could not have won the test without people like gayle or canders. Sammy has no place in that team as a matter of fact Gibson should resign because is doing nothing to help the team.

  • Lance on August 7, 2012, 21:15 GMT

    Guys, Sammy has definitely improved as a player over the last 6-8 months. What more can you ask for? He's not exactly Jacques Kallis, and it's debatable as to his being able to justify his place on the team but he's still better than he was when he started as captain. He's played a few good innings including a century in english conditions. We need to start accepting that he's likely going to be the captain for a while.

  • Zorina on August 7, 2012, 13:17 GMT

    Friends, we are doing well at the bottom of the ladder, in fact, very well... we beat Bangladesh and New Zealand. The changes to the team that made us successful against New Zealand have nothing to do with captain and coach. And let's be realistic Gayle brought more to the team than for himself. Gayle did not lose out by being out of the team, WI did. On Sammy's batting it is no different from Tino Best at number 11, or Kemar Roach, Russell and Rampaul for that matter. What's good for the club sides playing at the bottom of the table does not work against better teams, so let everyone celebrate where they feel comfortable...

  • Jon on August 7, 2012, 12:46 GMT

    @Dashgar- I really like the analogy and it is spot on. People should not be too harsh about Darren Sammy because he has stabilised the crumbling WI. Every criticism of him can only be levelled against his natural ability. His attitude and work ethic have been exceptional and he should be given great credit for this. In many ways he is my favourite cricketer in the modern game. The manner he has approached everything has been great. However, if the WI are now to take the next big step, which is to compete with the big boys then WI need a replacement as skipper. They must look to retain the services of Sarwan and play a specialist 3rd seamer, or at home 2 specialist spinners.

  • Dummy4 on August 7, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    As a kiwi, am dissapointed with the series, but on the other hand world cricket needs a winning WI side. So am glad for that.

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