West Indies' attack lacked variety
Sri Lanka found the escape hatch against West Indies yesterday at the Queen's Park Oval on a pitch that looked wonderful for shot-making, but still provided a bit of assistance for the bowlers.
With two days left in this intriguing contest, Sri Lanka reached 268 before Muttiah Muralitharan offered a catch to Daren Powell off Jerome Taylor to bring the innings to a close and set the home team a tricky target of 253.
Just after lunch, though, they were languishing at 99 for 6 when the dangerous Chamara Silva had departed. It was a 138-run partnership between Thilan Samaraweera and lower-order left-hand batsman Chaminda Vaas that kept the Sri Lankans in the game and frustrated West Indies for the better part of the day. Thus, the case of the missing spinner again resurfaced.
With due respect to captain Chris Gayle - who, to prove my point, eventually separated the duo - he cannot be considered the answer to West Indies' need for variety in their attack. In fact, this 'one-track' attack, though not lacking pace, looked a little bit flat at times, once the Sri Lankan pair had played themselves in.
Gayle has not shown the propensity, or at least the desire, to bowl several overs on the trot as a specialist spinner would, like, say the ultra-successful Muralitharan. Murali accounts for a big chunk of Sri Lanka's over rate on a constant basis, a huge part of the reason he recorded his 63rd five-wicket haul at the Oval yesterday.
Suffice to say that the region cannot truthfully boast of a spinner of the calibre of Murali. With that being said, if there are two specialist spinners in a 15-man squad with a pitch like the Oval - which has something for batsman, fast bowler, and spinner - someone offering variety should be allowed to absorb some overs and take some pressure off the faster men.
The closest a specialist spinner got to the West Indies team was 12th man Sulieman Benn, bringing his team-mates water. Why pick them if you won't play them?
Then there's hometown hero Amit Jaggernauth, who put Trinidad and Tobago into the Carib Beer Challenge Final against Jamaica with simple figures of 10 for 79, only his personal-best figures in regional cricket, last weekend against Barbados.
Perhaps they're worth a shout, or even a look in. Otherwise, spin might just be the next creature on the endangered species list in the Caribbean.