Editorial

Tough times continue for West Indies cricket

Saturday, December 16, 2017

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It could be argued that with the West Indies ranked eighth in the ICC Test match rankings, and hosts New Zealand fourth, their recent two-Test series was always going to be a no-contest.

In fact, though, West Indies arrived in New Zealand last month with high hopes of continuing the improvements shown over the last year against higher-ranked teams Pakistan and England.

Instead, the West Indies were horrendously poor, losing both Tests by huge margins. Crucially, West Indian batsmen found themselves unable to deal with the New Zealand tactic of aggressive, short-pitched, fast bowling aimed at the body on hard, grassy pitches well suited to that type of attack.

Ego may well have been a significant contributor to the batting failures, since too many West Indian batsmen fell attempting extravagant hooks and pulls, rather than seeking to evade short-pitched deliveries.

However, more to the point was inadequate technique — yet more evidence that the long-standing practice of preparing dry, slow pitches in domestic Caribbean cricket, which suit spinners but discourage fast bowlers, is undermining the standard of regional batting.

There has been much talk about the need to prepare pitches across the Caribbean which will provide bounce and pace. But, on the evidence of the current regional domestic first-class season, it's been mostly empty talk.

Ironically, by far the fastest bowler on either side in the two-Test series was the West Indian Mr Shannon Gabriel. Yet, New Zealand's batsmen — showing superior technique and judgement — coped well with his aggression.

When all is said and done, New Zealand planned and executed well. The West Indies appeared helter skelter and too often got the basics wrong.

Tellingly, a check with the scorecards show West Indian bowlers delivered 39 no-balls over the two Tests, while New Zealand bowled none. Also, West Indies captain, Mr Jason Holder, missed the second Test after being penalised for his team's slow over rate in the first Test. He and his team were also fined.

Under the rules, the punishment became mandatory since West Indies had infringed twice in a period of less than 12 months — having faltered earlier this year against Pakistan.

Annoyingly, in the second Test against New Zealand, West Indies, now led by Mr Kraigg Brathwaite, were again fined for slow over rates.

Now the West Indies must seek to turn it all around in the limited-overs section of the tour, with several members of the Test squad returning to the Caribbean and a few others, including the iconic Mr Chris Gayle, joining the touring party.

While winning will be a boost for morale, the even more important aspect of this section of the tour will be solid preparation for the ICC Cricket World Cup-qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe, come March.

Readers will recall that the West Indies are being forced to play qualifiers against traditionally lesser teams — including dangerous Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Afghanistan — after failing to automatically qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup set for 2019.

Readers will also recall that West Indies failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy earlier this year.

To put it very mildly, West Indies cricket cannot afford to miss out on the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.

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