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Dear Editor: WI could do with more Hope in ICC Test Chase against Sri Lanka

“[…] The three-member CWI selection panel has been doing a creditable job and the 13-member squad they have chosen to face Sri Lanka will, I think, give a good account of itself. 

Even without Shai Hope and Roston Chase. But that does not, in my opinion, justify their exclusion. I would have preferred to see Hope as one of our openers and batting all-rounder Chase at #6…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the squad selected to represent West Indies in the Tests against Sri Lanka was submitted by Francis Warner, former head of the QRC English Department—who spent many, many hours supervising QRC cricketers working on the Queen’s Park Oval scoreboard:

Photo: West Indies players (from left) Kraigg Brathwaite, Nkrumah Bonner and Rahkeem Cornwall celebrate their 2-0 Test win over Bangladesh in the 2021 series.
(via CWI Media)

Dear Editor,

I hope that as the West Indies continue to chase an ICC Test Championship spot, we can put up a huge total if we bat first in next week’s First Test at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. 

Even if we are not taking first strike, I hope that we so restrict Sri Lanka in their first innings that chasing down and surpassing their total would be no challenge for our batsmen. 

The three-member CWI selection panel has been doing a creditable job and the 13-member squad they have chosen to face Sri Lanka will, I think, give a good account of itself. 

Even without Shai Hope and Roston Chase. But that does not, in my opinion, justify their exclusion. I would have preferred to see Hope as one of our openers and batting all-rounder Chase at #6. 

Hope has under-performed in recent Tests, it is true, but he has all the attributes of an authentic Test batsman. He has always done well against this opposition and the manner in which he scored his runs in the three recent ODIs suggests that this is just the right time to rekindle his Test career. 

Photo: West Indies batsman Shai Hope (right) hits a boundary during the second ODI match against India at the Queen’s Park Oval on 25 June 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Jewel Samad)

Form, after all, is temporary but class is, we all know, permanent.

Chase captained one of the Best vs the Best Test trial teams, so it is something of a surprise that he did not make the final cut. His track record against spin suggests that he would have given the batting order greater stability and his better-than-part-time off-spin bowling would have added something not insubstantial to Kraigg Brathwaite’s bowling armoury.

In the event, the skipper will have four main bowlers to call on, Rahkeem Cornwall and the three pacers Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, each of whom offers something different. We are anxious to see how Cornwall performs on wickets that may be less friendly for spin. Kyle Mayers and Brathwaite himself can be called upon when needed. 

With Chase, there would have been a third spin option should Cornwall struggle to hit his lengths. And he is a much more reliable batsman than the mercurial Jermaine Blackwood, whose fearless, aggressive approach to batting is, I concede, highly entertaining—when it comes off!

Photo: West Indies all-rounder Roston Chase.
(via Skysports)

That approach has served the team well at times. However, the Jamaican has rarely given me the sense that, should the occasion demand it, he can change course.

Ditto Cornwall, who gets in at #9 ahead of Roach. Like Blackwood, he is somewhat cavalier in his approach; however, he has scored a century in both the regional 50-over and the four-day competitions. So there is definitely some raw material to work with there. 

Roach, by contrast, tends to play within his limitations and if, God forbid, the situation demands a rescue act, the Barbadian can come in ahead of Cornwall and be relied on to hold up an end.

Back at the top, I see Darren Bravo, the best and most experienced batsman on the team, at #3, Bonner at #4 and Mayers at #5. 

I am not entirely confident the T&T left-hander can come in at the fall of an early wicket and take us safely through the early overs. He is more likely to give us a big score coming in when the shine is off the ball, thus at #4.

Photo: West Indies batsman Darren Bravo (centre) prepares to sweep during Test action against Pakistan at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on 22 October 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Aamir Qureshi)

But his showing in the Sri Lanka ODIs and in the just-concluded practice match suggests that he is rounding into form and he may well be ready to come good again at #3. 

Both Bonner and Mayers have demonstrated with their handling of the Bangladesh spinners that they have the temperament and the technique for the longer game. Mayers’ bowling makes him a useful fourth seamer while, to a lesser extent, Bonner’s exploratory leg-spin bowling can occasionally add some welcome variety. 

Newbie wicket-keeper Joshua Da Silva will come at #7, ahead of known quantity Holder at #8. With bat and ball, Holder brings world class quality to the team while Da Silva offers a maturity and calm assurance that belies his age and the recency of his entry into the Test arena.

So in batting order, my starting XI looks like this: Brathwaite (captain), Hope, Bravo, Bonner, Mayers, Chase, Da Silva, Holder, Cornwall, Roach and Gabriel.

Limited to the selectors’ 13-man squad, I replace Hope with Campbell and Chase with Blackwood. 

Photo: West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood makes a shot during the fifth day of the first Test match against England at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Sunday 12 July 2020.
(Copyright Adrian Dennis/Pool via AP)

One hopes Brathwaite will continue to be as imaginative, aggressive and thoughtful in his field setting and his handling of the bowlers as he was in Bangladesh. We want to see him again motivate the team to perform with passion allied to discipline.

If the selectors are right, the team will once again show the benefits of careful strategising and consistent attention to detail. Then, instead of being a flash in the pan, the Bangladesh triumph may well prove to have been the first fruits of a bumper crop to be harvested in this Sri Lanka series and beyond.

Even without Shai, I Hope the West Indies, sans Roston as well, will contrive to successfully Chase an ICC Test Championship Finals spot.

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3 comments

  1. When we have good players they are not selected till they begin to wane.

  2. Hope averages 25 after 34 tests. That’s not poor form. He is a less than average test cricketer.

    • John Campbell, in the squad ahead of Hope, averages 24 after 13 Tests. We’ll probably never know what his average will be after 34 because, with the best will in the world, no selection panel is likely to give him such a long run unless he produces at least one innings to at least suggest that he has Test class.

      Maybe Hope has not convinced–at least, there has been a suggestion.