WI v ENG 3rd Test preview: a chance to complete the unthinkable

Fri, Feb 8, '19


Windies v England

There is an argument re Jason Holder’s absence from the upcoming third and final Test, that this will bring hope for England. While that argument does hold weight, what might the opinion that the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium is home to the “fastest wicket” in the Caribbean do to that hope? Or the fact that although the Caribbean team does have the option of going with the recently included Keemo Paul, a very realistic replacement for the Windies captain is the impressive young Jamaican fast-bowler—Oshane Thomas?

Unaffected by Holder’s replacement will remain the importance of the coin toss, as was in Barbados as well as Antigua. Also of utmost importance will be the leadership of this West Indian team. As, not only does the West Indies lose a batsman as well as a bowler in Jason Holder, but their leader in every sense of the word. Although we have been very critical of Kraigg Brathwaite’s captaincy in the past; the Bajan, who is set to lead the team for a fifth time in Tests—will do so for only the first time on home soil. To that point, there are many words that  could have been used to describe this amazing series win but the most important adjective of them all was ‘deserved’; and so Brathwaite could not have asked for better circumstances in which to try his hand at captaincy again.

After all, this will be the best team which Kraigg Brathwaite has been asked to lead to date:

  1. On the tour of New Zealand in late 2017, his first time leading the team, the Windies top-order was still struggling and “pieces” were being moved around.
  2. October 2018, in the first Test in India, (just following an amazing home summer in which Windies bowlers accounted for ninety-six of a possible one-hundred wickets) he led a team without 2/3 of their main bowlers and a still-struggling top-order.
  3. And being already out of their depth on the spinning wickets in Bangladesh later that year, Shannon Gabriel joined Holder on the side-lines for the final Test.

*To put this top-order struggle into perspective; since Shane Dowrich made his first Test ton in October 2017, he has gone on to add another two and now equals the number of centuries scored by Windies’ top-order batsmen during that time—three.

With yet another change to the opening pair coming into this series, Windies might just have tweaked it correctly this time around; with three consecutive half-century stands between Campbell and Brathwaite, all integral parts of each innings and subsequently each win, and the intangible effect it has had on the rest of the West Indian top-order in this series.

There is no guarantee that Brathwaite will put on a better showing as captain, but with a series win already in the bag, home conditions to boot, a more stable top-order than in recent times, and the best bowling unit (based on current form and talent) he has ever had at his disposal along with calypso on the speakers—it is safe to say that Brathwaite has been handed ideal circumstances to change our “already-made-up-minds” about his leadership qualities.

The visitors who are “sweating” on the fitness of both Ben Stokes and Ben Foakes will have additional reshuffling to do as they try to make room for fast-bowler Mark Wood on a pacey St. Lucia wicket. Not unlike the hosts, who having already won the series, might want to seriously consider leaving Oshane Thomas as a ‘surprise’ for the limited overs leg of the tour. Sure, the English might have seen him on television; but with “pace like fire” coming at you and his bowling action up close and personal, the West Indies might want to think like a big team and give themselves every advantage of success later in the tour.

The question ‘do we have our West Indies back’ has been floating around in the wake of the fast-bowling that has contributed to this series win. My question in response is—why so hasty? We have waited this long, surely, we can wait a bit more. Instead, find joy in how the team exploited home conditions to win this series. Name me a top team in world sport that is not dominant at home. Jason Holder had previously managed to pick up wins without winning a series, now he has won three in the span of fifteen months. Therefore, the next step for Holder’s West Indies should be home dominance, no? This team has won five of the last seven matches at home while losing just once; a rather unfortunate loss to Sri Lanka in Barbados. Engage mission ‘Make the Caribbean Great Again’.