Continued top-order failings leave West Indies with license to experiment

Wed, Jul 29, '20


Media Watch

From the heights of a series-leading victory to being bowled out for one hundred and twenty-nine (129) runs inside 38 overs, the West Indies fell to a 2-1 series defeat to England on Day 5 of the third and final Test at Old Trafford, ensuring the Wisden Trophy will know the host nation as its final home. In a series of contests where the visiting bowlers were seldom dominated, their batting counterparts, who briefly threatened the unexpected, soon return to substandard familiarity.

Talent, present as it now is, has never been an issue in West Indies cricket. And while being visibly evident in all the members of the West Indies top-six, two were unable to produce anything of significance with the bat throughout the entire series. Brathwaite, Brooks, Chase and Blackwood all recorded half-centuries at some point on the tour; with Brathwaite, Brooks and Blackwood doing so twice. Yet the highest scores for John Campbell and Shai Hope were recorded as being 32 and 31, respectively.

As a result, Shai Hope’s Test record is currently being narrated as a revelation by the cricketing media—who have been forced into a distinction that Caribbean fans have, for some time now, been able to make; one between the right-handers ODI form and his Test struggles. And John Campbell, who admittedly had a poor time of it on this tour—a man who only had six Test caps prior to this series—has been “coupled” with the Barbadian—who was averaging 24.77 in his last 34 innings prior to this series—as the ‘other’ struggler.

While conceding that there is indeed an argument to be made for Campbell’s technique requiring adjustments for Test match cricket, one can also wonder if this young man, who made his debut just last year, is falling victim to the narrative of the wide-reaching English media, who are currently supplying content to the entire cricket world, who, at this time, is short on options, with no other cricket being played.

That being said, the question ‘where does the West Indies go from here?’ is yet to be addressed. To that, I’d say, what we saw from our batsmen over the last three weeks was not ‘learnt’, nor is any of it ‘knowledge gained.’ The West Indies bowlers have been leading the charge ahead of a lower-order that has been covering for a failing top-order for the last two years.

More to the point, if both Hope and Campbell were indeed to make way, the West Indies would then look to the potential returns of Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer to the squad, with Bravo realistically slotting into that no.3 position.

Unfortunately for Hetmyer, however—and fortunately for the West Indies—his replacement in the playing XI—Jermaine Blackwood—finished as the West Indies’ top run-scorer averaging 35.16 while scoring 211 runs in the series.

But with this series defeat and the continued failures of the top-order, might just have come the license for the West Indies to explore new things—Hetmyer further up the order, perhaps?

Throughout Hope’s three-year drought, one disappointment is that he was least asked to bat where he averaged the highest, 32.71 in 26 innings at no.4 and 50 in 6 innings at no.5.

Therefore, even with the emergence of the much-talked-about and hyped Joshua Da Silva, the West Indies could not be faulted if they were to make bold and out of the box decisions, including giving an opportunity, at the top of the order, to Shimron Hetmyer—who was an opener in age-group cricket—at some point in the near future.

After all, the last instance in which such a talented attacking batsman opened in Tests for the West Indies, that left-hander averaged 42.19 in 103 Tests. And following that batting display in England, the Caribbean side has nothing left to lose.

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