Drawing parallels between WINDIES bowlers in 2018 and WINDIES batsmen in 2021

Mon, Apr 5, '21

by KRISSANIA YOUNG

Commentary

Dhaka, August 2015. That’s how far back we’d have to dig into the Test archives to find a 0-0 drawn series. That is, of course, until the West Indies and Sri Lanka matched each other over the last two weeks in Antigua to reset the record. A positive result would have seen the West Indies leapfrog their opponents to 7th in the ICC Test Rankings, but for an unapologetically flat final-day wicket.

On commentary, in the media and on social platforms, one particular question held constant throughout the just-concluded series: “Are the West Indies a batsman short, here?”

Based on the general composition of West Indies Test teams over the last three years, which usually took the image of six batsmen (including all-rounder Roston Chase), a wicketkeeper-batsman, Jason Holder and a pace-trio, one could argue that WINDIES were indeed a batsman short this time around. Yet, it never felt as such. 

Regardless of the series win in Bangladesh, there was to be no debate as to whether Holder—who declined the invitation to tour the Asian Subcontinent—being the number one ranked Test all-rounder in the world, would be included in the West Indies playing XI. His imminent inclusion was also set to shift the balance of the team in the process.

And so, the void left by Shayne Moseley—who was not included in this squad—who slotted in at no.3 in Bangladesh, would consequently be filled by Nkrumah Bonner, who would be asked to move up from no.4.

Though disappointing the result, the West Indies will have taken heart in their batting display. Still a specialist batsman down, WINDIES averaged 285+ as a batting unit throughout the Test series. The highest they have managed since Bangladesh’s visit to the Caribbean in 2018 (apart from their 2021 tour of Bangladesh). This means that for the first time in this three-year period, the batting unit has rivaled the bowling unit for superiority throughout consecutive series.

Here is a parallel for you, or is it just ironic, that it was a home tour against these very opponents, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, in 2018, that saw West Indies’ seam bowling take off as a force to be reckoned with. Over the span of those five matches, we saw the West Indian seamers, then inclusive of Miguel Cummins and Keemo Paul, claiming 87 of a possible 100 wickets.

That period also gave birth to iconic performances, such as; Kemar Roach’s 5 for 8 against Bangladesh, Shannon Gabriel’s 13 for 121 against Sri Lanka, as it also saw Jason Holder claiming the record for the best figures by a West Indies captain on home soil, with 11 for 103 at Sabina Park.

Since then, Roach, Gabriel and Holder have been professional, reliable and potent.

From then, up until the conclusion of the 2020 tour of New Zealand, the West Indies top-five averaged 118.29 first innings runs. It was also a period where the West Indies had scored 300+ runs only 9 times in their 39 innings (23.01%). A period in which the Maroon outfit had not had a century-scoring no.3. A period where Kraigg Brathwaite, the sole centurion opener for WINDIES since his debut, had not had a ton outside of the brace he scored against Bangladesh in that 2018 series.

In the last four games, however, the top-five has been averaging 251. While the West Indies have managed 3 scores of 350+ runs in 8 innings (37.5%). Nkrumah Bonner has become the first batsman to score a hundred batting at number three for West Indies in four and a half years. And Kraigg Brathwaite notched his first ton in thirty-two months.

Now, when Jason Holder left the tour of New Zealand, only Brathwaite, Bravo and Blackwood (of batsmen with 2 Test matches or more) had better averages than the all-rounder himself. And while the 29-year-old has made his fair share of runs with the bat, coming at number eight—talent aside—there was never any official responsibility. Therefore, it tended to feel a bit like a bonus whenever he did accumulate runs. But now, having Holder at number six—his talent inclusive—may be why the West Indies are anything but a batsman short in the eyes of coach Phil Simmons.

With Holder batting two places up from his usual number eight position, the new-look WINDIES lower-order should resemble something like this: Joshua Da Silva, Alzarri Joseph (if he can keep his place in the team) Rahkeem Cornwall and Kemar Roach. The former three have been averaging 104.5 runs as a trio, in the 4 innings in which they have all batted. Which should see the West Indies continue their trend as being one of the most prolific lower-order batting units in the Test arena.

As I witness this batting unit bearing fruit against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, I am forced to reminisce on the West Indies bowling unit that began to bear fruit against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Here is a parallel for you, or is it just ironic? Above all, I hope it is symbolic.

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