Holder/Simmons link-up to move WINDIES Test cricket forward?

Tue, Nov 26, '19

by KRISSANIA YOUNG

Commentary

With the visitors sweeping the One-Day International series and the hosts rallying to claim the T20 International series; the West Indies and Afghanistan return to Lucknow for a one-off Test, drawing the curtain on the all-format tour. Although Jason Holder’s men are ranked 8th, with the Rashid Khan-led side two places behind them in 10th in the ICC Test rankings, respective team forms coming into the match might betray ranking logic. This, as the West Indies have lost three matches on the bounce. In addition to conceding all four games they contested (two to India and two to Bangladesh) on their most recent visit to the subcontinent. Afghanistan, on the other hand, have been enjoying red-ball cricket, so far. Having gained Test status in June of 2017, the Afghans have played three Tests matches, winning two (against Ireland then Bangladesh), with their only defeat coming against the number one ranked Indians.

This Test will not be considered as part of the ICC Test Championship (only the top nine ranked Test nations are involved), with WINDIES next in action in the competition next June against England. Cricket West Indies (CWI) named the following 14-man squad for the sole Test: Sunil Ambris, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder (c), Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican.

Despite the “wholesale changes”, CWI has decided to retain Jason Holder as Test captain… for now. All eyes will be on the 28-year-old to discern any changes in his approach to leadership, hoping that the all-rounder assumes a more proactive attitude under Phil Simmons, aided by the fire the possibility of redundancy would have set to his tail.

With almost the entire top-order out of form, the West Indies find themselves in an unenviable position ahead of the Test on Tuesday. On their last trip to the subcontinent, WINDIES batsmen—no. 1 through to no. 5—in four matches, scored a combined 533 runs at an average of 66.63. There has not been much change in fortunes for the West Indies, as in those same batting positions, a combined 431 runs have been tallied at an average of 71.83 in their last three Tests.

Needless to say, someone needs to put their hand up. And with 8 Test tons, the most in this West Indian team, is vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite awaiting special invitation? Brathwaite, whose last Test century was 20 innings ago, has been no exception to this “runs-drought” the WINDIES top-order is facing. However, having spent a short stint at Glamorgan in the County Championship in September, where he averaged 55.33 over the course of 4 innings, while notching a century, we can only hope that Brathwaite’s return to form is afoot.

Further down the order, the Caribbean side welcomes back resident red-ball wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich, who missed the last two Tests because of injury. An injury to Shane Dowrich, given WINDIES’ atrocious run-scoring form, was the last thing the side would have wanted. He, with 678 runs (at an average of 43.73) since the start of 2018, alongside Jason Holder, has led lower-order fight back after lower-order fight back for the West Indies. Yet, the right-hander’s form away from home during this period, with a solitary half-century in 8 innings, is cause for concern.

And the worries don’t stop there for the visitors; captain Jason Holder (48 wickets since the start of 2018) might be the top-ranked all-rounder and Kemar Roach (46 wickets since the start of 2018) might be unsung; but, the absence of the injured Shannon Gabriel (50 wickets since the start of 2018) means that the West Indies will have to make do without their most effective wicket-taker since the start of 2018. This, however, hints at possible opportunities for two exciting young seamers, in Alzarri Joseph and Keemo Paul. Unfortunately, the mere 3 away matches and 2 away wickets between the two, will not be filling the opposition batsmen with fear.

A man who has all his experience away from home is Jomel Warrican. Warrican, who has earned all seven of his Test caps outside of the Caribbean, with 21 wickets to show for his efforts, will also be in contention to feature on Tuesday. And the fact that the 27-year-old had 10 wickets in 4 innings on WINDIES’ last trip to Asia, could only aid his case.

Predicted XI: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Shane Dowrich (wk), Jason Holder (c), Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican.

Afghanistan v West Indies one-off Test gets under way at the Ekana Cricket Stadium at 12 midnight on Tuesday night ECT/11:00 pm Jamaica time.

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