What the final scoreboard says is this. The West Indies lost 2-nil to Sri Lanka. However, in the larger scheme of things, if you were privy of how the West Indies played the same opponent back home, you’d feel different.
You’d actually say where the Test matches were concerned, the West Indies lost this year on the whole to Sri Lanka.
A drawn Test match may not mean such a bad thing. But if you are unable to beat an opponent especially when playing in home conditions, then that outcome is tantamount to a defeat.
This is exactly what had happened to Kraigg Brathwaite and team earlier in the Caribbean when the Dimuth Karunaratane-led side arrived for the two Tests with the hosts failing to win any game and the series ending 0-0.
And with all due respect to the playing eleven and with much sincerity to the team’s support staff and the coach who were in both Sri Lanka Tests, if there’s one thing that the West Indies do take back to the Caribbean then it’s a 0.
For that’s not only the series outcome, but the number of areas they’ve improved on.
That’s if you cut the spinners and medium pace bowlers some slack, which by the way was never the weak area. Back in March in Antigua’s 1st Test, Cornwall had taken four wickets in the game whilst Holder had taken a famous fifter.
It’s batting that continues to let the team down and enables the viewers to pass – and perhaps incessantly so- snide digs at a team that was once feared for its batting prowess.
Having said that, which are 5 of the biggest problem areas that saw Sri Lanka snub the Caribbean side this time around?
Roston Chase’s disappointing display
The Barbados-born all rounder started the series with a bang. When the Sri Lankan batting seemed as if it wouldn’t come to an end, picture the first inning of the opening Test where they put 386 runs, Chase was able to somehow take stock of the situation.
His 5-for ensured the Windies would finally end their toil and get the chance to bat. But when that happened, the batsman made 2, a score he’d follow up with 1. In all, he’d last for 31 deliveries as a batsman.
By the time the next game began, home fans, perhaps aware of the fact that Chase was troubled may have expected, against hope, to see some fight from their man.
But he would let them down making all of 10 runs from the game including a first-ball duck, a naught that should never really have been given the precarious situation his team was already in.
For someone whose career has seen some sparkling centuries, and that too, against potent and match-winning attacks such as a Yasir Shah, Mohd. Amir powered Pakistan as well as a Bumrah, Ashwin-powered Indian side, it doesn’t look as though the batsman we are seeing today is that same Roston Chase.
Remember the bloke, who dominated at Jamaica in 2016 against a side that had Kohli, Pujra, Dhoni and the very man who, two years later, had lost none of that fight as he stroked a valiant 106 at Hyderabad?
Where’s the Hope in Shai?
Barring his 89-delivery-stay for 22 in the first innings of the final test, there was nothing hopeful that Shai Hope was able to deliver in a series where, let’s face it, he was lucky to have even featured.
The actual plan was always to see Solzano from Trinidad and Tobago feature in the playing line up. But that was never meant to be. It should have been the perfect opportunity for Hope to revive a career in red ball cricket that one hopes isn’t living on its final legs.
One of the great mysteries of the Windies cricket is Shai Hope’s career as to how did it never prosper despite the 2017 Leeds’ heroics that culminated in brilliant tons.
The batsman has all the shots as well as the technical know how of the game, yet, how does he find a way to get out and not make runs when most needed by this team?
Does that measure on your list of 21st century’s greatest puzzles yet to be solved? Not sure if the CIA or any real life Sherlock are up for this one, though!
A clear lack of partnerships
If there’s one thing the West Indies clearly lack then it’s partnerships. It doesn’t help when there’s resistance from one end.
In the 2nd and final Test, wickets kept tumbling from both ends, resulting in a team score of 132. Think for a second that Dhananjaya de Silva scored 155 alone. Moreover, remained not out.
However, on the Windies’ side, the maximum that a stand could last for was for 75 runs (third wicket) when Bonner and makeshift opener Blackwood were at the crease in the first innings. This and the stand between Holder and Mayers in the First Test’s first innings, even if that lasted for just 63 runs, were the only partnerships that come to mind as being anything nearly sizeable in the series. The duo had actually batted together for 17 overs on the trot without being separated.
But the vulnerabilities of the fourth innings at Galle marked sheer absent-mindedness from the batters.
Those who followed Blackwood- with the exception of Bonner- were akin to the falling ninepins in a bowling arena than cricketers with match awareness or even an understanding of playing Test cricket like how it is supposed to be played.
With a bit more spine than what the batsmen demonstrate.
Is the Windies batting capable of handling spin?
Here’s a question that must be asked of Coach Phil Simmons. It’s a question that must trouble him and give him sleepless nights, provided the famous former hard-hitting Trinidadian wishes his side improves.
Can his team handle spin? Rather, can it stand guard against spin on a turning wicket?
In which cricketing journal have you seen the name of Lasith Embuldeniya and Test newcomer Ramesh Mendis as spinners with more turn than Murali and Warne or talents that would shock a Kumble, Abdul Qadir or other legends of such repute with their turn and guile?
Make no mistake, both spinners are absolutely committed Lankans who put their everything into the welfare of the side and that’s exactly what they did at Galle, where of the 20 Windies wickets to fall, 18- would you believe it- fell to the duo!
That the West Indies played like a bunch of amateur schoolboys in finding constant weaknesses in their game exposed by two seemingly harmless but talented spinners is a case down to one using application and the other contesting with none whatsoever.
The intrepid Caribbean fan would have surely wondered- what would a Brian Lara and Shiv Chanderpaul, two great batsmen of spin, two men who shouldered massive responsibility (and often alone) in their days would’ve made of this meek surrender.
Can Holder, Hope, Chase, Brathwaite, Blackwood not play spin? Can they not apply themselves better? What is their team management going to do now, provided it hopes to see massive improvement in what lies ahead in 2022. These are some questions that will haunt the tragedy the fans saw in the series vs. Sri Lanka.
Anyone seen Jason Holder, the true “all rounder?”
19, 18 not out, 30 and 71 not out. These were scores Jason Holder, former Test captain and current ICC Test no. 1 all-rounder managed against the same attack, but in the Caribbean earlier in 2021.
36, 0, 4 and then, 3. These were scores Jason Holder came up with against the same attack but away from the Caribbean.
See the trend? Find the weakling? What is it? Perhaps it’s more than the familiarity Holder would have liked of the slow and often sluggish Caribbean pitches that come to the mind. But the fact that one of the most elegant stroke makers – if also a lazy batter- is desperately looking for lost form.
In England, in 2020, Holder the batsman was a completely different bird. He was able to get to the line of the ball and his 35, then in the second Test was just the kind of knock that his 36, First Test at Sri Lanka looked like.
Perfectly timed. Patient. With strokes on either side and with that added awareness that he had to remain at the crease. This time around, the bowler in Holder was there but the batsman was nowhere to be found. You cannot, as a senior of the side, get away making 40 runs from 4 innings.