If it is true that a cricket match is played in the minds of the opposing captains, then the Second Test between Michael Clarke’s Australians and Denesh Ramdin’s West Indies which begins today in Jamaica is likely to be a mismatch.
That conclusion is based not on the tourists’ flattering nine-wicket margin in the First Test in Dominica but entirely on the evidence of the match as a whole.
Although on paper, the visitors are indisputably superior to the home side, the win at Windsor Park was a triumph not of superior talent but of superior organization and superior leadership.
And nothing that has happened between last weekend and today suggests that the West Indian leadership is in a better place than it was after the humiliating capitulation in Roseau.
There are those who will point immediately to the absence of the long-serving Shivnarine Chanderpaul as the reason for the West Indian defeat. Such sentimental twaddle should really be treated with complete contempt but let us deal with it. With his match aggregate of 85, Chanders’ replacement Shane Dowrich was the highest contributor to the WI match total of 364 runs.
Perhaps more to the point, in his two innings he faced 221 balls; Chanderpaul in his last three Tests had managed only 92 runs off 327 balls. ‘Nuff said…until the newbie begins to fail to deliver.
Hoping against hope, others have suggested that we might solve the problem by using the genuine opener included in the squad instead of using Shai Hope at the top to partner Kraigg Brathwaite.
The 21-year-old Bajan scored only two in the second innings but he was easily the top scorer in the West Indies’ paltry first innings total of 148. And he fell to excellent catches on both occasions although he will not want this week to damblay the loose shots that cost him his wicket.
In my view, the West Indian problem is obvious. It can be summed up in one word: leadership. Or the lack of it.
It is a cricketing commonplace that leg-spinners are to be used in short spells. But because Adam Voges, who made full 40% of the Aussie first innings total, was a debutant, the WI probably came to the game with little archived information on him. Searching for a miracle, Ramdin persevered with Devendra Bishoo for 33 of the 92 overs the innings lasted.
Bishoo claimed two more of the last four scalps, Mitchell Johnson for 20 and Mitchell Starc for a duck. But the miracle simply did not materialize, Voges remaining unbeaten at the end.
Not that Ramdin’s field placing helped. Look again at how the second innings partnership that threatened to take the game away from the Aussies ended. Captain Clarke must have spotted something in the way Dowrich was playing and placed Shane Watson in so unorthodox a position that the radio commentator called it “wide on-bowler.” In that spot, he snaffled a low on-drive to send the set batsman on his way and leave the WI on the skids.
Despite the psychological impact of Bishoo’s four early morning wickets, Ramdin by comparison could find nothing to prevent Voges and the tail from taking their team from 126 for 6 to 318 all out. It is worth noting that four of Bishoo’s eventual six wickets went bowled or caught at the wicket, meaning that the field placing was an overt contributor for only two of them.
Now, I supported the appointment of Ramdin and argued in this space that he should be given the captaincy of all three teams. Boy, am I glad only about a dozen people read my stuff – and that includes my wife and my editor! No one, I argued, could be a worse captain than Otis Gibson, oops, Darren Sammy.
Well, maybe I was wrong. I certainly am nowhere near as sanguine now about the choice as I once was.
Critical though the television commentators often were of the Prince of Port-of- Spain, you felt that that was because the tactics he employed did not work.
With Ramdin, the criticisms come thick and fast because he does not employ any tactics, no discernible ones, anyway. He does not act; he reacts. He has bowlers and fieldsmen but he has no discernible plan. He does not lead, he misleads.
So where does that leave us at Sabina today? Well, the easy answer is in a monkey pants. We won’t recall Chanderpaul and we can’t replace Ramdin. So we are going to need luck.
Or Usain “Lightning” Bolt. They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. In 1994, Brian Lara made 375 against England at the Antigua Recreation Ground in St John’s to claim the world record; ten years later in 2004 he made 400 against England to reclaim it.
Where, you ask? Why, at the Antigua Recreation Ground in St John’s, of course! So, lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place? Says who?
Chief of selectors Clive Lloyd and Coach Phil Simmons should have remembered that Bolt has expressed an interest in playing cricket at the highest level. Bolt, let us not forget, struck double sprint gold first in Beijing in 2008 and then again in China in 2012.
Look again at Jermaine Blackwood’s dismissal in the second innings in Dominica; with the WI still under the gun, the tall, dark Jamaican athlete ran down the track and lost his wicket. Maybe we should put him out of his misery; let him run down the track and maybe win a medal.
And put “Lightning” in the starting XI and in the middle order at Sabina.
Failing that, this Ramdin-led team may well have missed out on its only realistic chance of averting a second three-day slaughter.