McWatt and Reds: Brilliant Permaul, stubborn Blackwood and SOS for a leg-spin coach after Sri Lanka series

“[…] The very first order of business […] must be for us to immediately place our order for a very large double serving of curried crow, with some Guyanese plain rice on the side […] following the totally unanticipated, on our part at least, outstanding Second Test bowling performance of Veerasammy Permaul.

“[…] With regards to the West Indies batting performances during the Sri Lanka two-Test series, the less said the better. They were, in a nutshell, absolutely clueless against the wiles of Sri Lanka’s spinners…”

Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt and veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira review the West Indies two-Test series away to Sri Lanka and recommend changes going forward:

Photo: Sri Lanka spinner Ramesh Mendis (second from left) is congratulated by team-mates after a wicket against the West Indies in the recent two-Test series in Galle.
(Copyright Getty Images)

The West Indies’ two-Test series in Sri Lanka has ended with defeats for the visitors in both matches, and by very large margins. The West Indies lost the First Test by 187 runs and the Second by 164 runs. 

As always, there were, for us, some interesting, extractable takeaways from the West Indies’ performances—particularly in the Second Test but overall for the entire series as well.

KFC Munch Pack

The very first order of business in reviewing any such takeaways, however, must be for us to immediately place our order for a very large double serving of curried crow, with some Guyanese plain rice on the side and two large bowls of dhal as a ‘washdown’, as would be said in Caribbean parlance. That much is required following the totally unanticipated, on our part at least, outstanding Second Test bowling performance of Veerasammy Permaul.

Recalled to the West Indies playing XI for the very first time in over five years—an occurrence which we had never anticipated in all our wildest dreams—Permaul responded with match figures of 8/141 in 53.0 overs. His outstanding returns included a first innings 5/35 in 13 overs.

Photo: West Indies spinner Veerasammy Permaul (centre) is congratulated by captain Kraigg Brathwaite (right) and team-mates during the recent Test series away to Sri Lanka.
(Copyright AFP)

Permaul’s Second Test bowling was superior in every conceivable manner to that of the West Indies’ other left-arm spinner, the far more seasoned and experienced Jomel Warrican. 

As the team’s supposed first-choice left-arm spinner, Warrican’s series returns were 9/255 in 88.3 overs. His per wicket average was 28.33 compared to Permaul’s far more miserly 17.62. Warrican’s economy rate of 2.88 was also slightly inferior to Permaul’s 2.66.

Permaul’s far more outstanding Second Test performance would suggest that he now merits a pecking order promotion ahead of Warrican as the West Indies’ first-choice left-arm spinner. 

Similarly, so too does Roston Chase over Rakheem Cornwall as the team’s first-choice off-spinner. Chase’s series returns were 8/257 in 75.5 overs, including a first innings haul of 5/83 in 28.6 overs in the First Test. Cornwall by comparison had returns of 2/151 off 42.4 overs bowled during the First Test, following which he was deservedly dropped for the Second.

Photo: West Indies off-spinner Roston Chase (centre) is congratulated by wicket-keeper Joshua da Silva after taking the wicket of Sri Lanka batsman Pathum Nissanka during the fourth day of the Second Test in Galle, Sri Lanka, on 2 December 2021.
(Copyright AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Apart from Permaul’s refreshingly outstanding performance, the only other encouraging takeaway from the series, in terms of the West Indies bowling, was Nkrumah Bonner’s three overs during Sri Lanka’s Second Test second innings. Bonner’s leg-breaks were sufficiently on target as to suggest that he should be utilised far more often by West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite in the foreseeable future. 

Indeed, our suggestion would now be for Cricket West Indies (CWI) to invest in the consultancy services of a seasoned leg-spin coach as part of the team’s preparation for next March’s 2022 home series against England, which will be their next Test encounter. 

The chosen consultant coach should also be commissioned to work with Hayden Walsh Jr, the West Indies’ white ball front-line wrist-spinner as part of the preparation for the team’s limited overs matches in 2022 and beyond.

With regards to the West Indies batting performances during the Sri Lanka two-Test Series, the less said the better. They were, in a nutshell, absolutely clueless against the wiles of Sri Lanka’s spinners—their technical deficiencies against top-flight spin bowling made embarrassingly obvious for all the world to see. 

Photo: West Indies batsman Nkrumah Bonner in action during the First Test against Sri Lanka in November 2021.
Bonner was a rare bright spark for West Indies with the bat.
(via CWI Media)

Indeed, the statistics provide irrefutable evidence as to just how deplorable the West Indies’ batting efforts actually were throughout almost the entire series.

Compared to Sri Lanka’s batsmen, four of whom had 30-plus averages, only two West Indies batsmen posted similar returns. Nkrumah Bonner’s 148 runs, at an average of 49.33 from four innings, was by far the most outstanding by a West Indian batsman. Joshua da Silva does, however, also deserve high praise for his 36.50 series average. 

Although da Silva’s actual aggregate was only 73 runs, the admirable application and commendable technique he demonstrated almost every time he batted was highly encouraging. Far more so than the batting of West Indies vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood, who squandered several promising starts through his now infuriating and customary poor shot selection.

Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite posted a series aggregate of 119 runs from four innings, at an average of 29.75 runs—the second-highest behind Bonner’s.

Photo: West Indies batsman Kyle Mayers plays an attacking shot against Bangladesh in the First Test in 2021.

Kyle Mayers (83 runs in four inns at an average of 27.66) and Shai Hope (61 in 4 inns at an average of 12.75) were, however, sufficiently disappointing as to merit a quest for identifiable potential replacements by selectors for the forthcoming home Test series against England next March.

Between now and then, all eyes will shift to the West Indies’ forthcoming white ball series against Pakistan and England. The Pakistan series from 13-22 December will comprise three T20s and three ODIs while the series against England next January will consist of five T20Is.

In announcing the T20 and ODI squads for the Pakistan series, the West Indies selectors have, thankfully, included some new faces in both. For the ODIs, the newcomers are batters Justin Greaves, Shamarh Brooks, left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie and fast bowling all-rounder Odean Smith. 

Motie and Smith were also selected in the T20I squad for the first time, along with left-arm fast bowling all-rounder Dominic Drakes. The selectors also saw it fit to provide a most welcome return for Romario Shepherd.

Photo: Guyana Amazon Warriors spinner Gudakesh Motie (right) celebrates the dismissal of Jamaica Tallawahs batsman Rovman Powell during CPL action at Warner Park in St Kitts on 11 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

In keeping with their far too often bewildering choices, the Roger Harper-led selection panel also included the 32-year-old Sheldon Cottrell as part of the T20 squad. 

While Cottrell’s inclusion may be defended as a cover for the injured Obed McCoy, to us it would have made far more sense for the available exposure to be provided to a younger player—especially with a view towards identifying, as quickly as possible, the best possible squad for next year’s T20 World Cup.

In that regard, and in contrast to what occurred this year in terms of the West Indies’ pre-2021 T20 World Cup preparation, the selectors must take the necessary measures to ensure that each and every one of the players identified as potential candidates for participating in the 2022 tournament should receive his fair share of actual match-playing opportunities.

Unfortunately, that was not the case this past year and particularly during the actual 2021 World Cup, when only 12 of the chosen 15 players were actually used.

Photo: West Indies fast bowler Oshane Thomas did not see any action at the 2021 T20 World Cup.
(via Sportskeeda)

Interesting times ahead indeed for all West Indies cricket followers, ever hopeful for much improved performances from both the red and white ball teams in the months ahead. 

While we ourselves now wait for events to unfold as they shall, we will in the interim engage in our enjoyment of the curry crow, rice and dhal that has been duly and deservedly served to us, direct from Albion, Berbice, on behalf of Mr Permaul. 

Our delight in so doing will be as much as that provided by his outstanding bowling performance in Sri Lanka!

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