Bat­ting is more than swing­ing at the ball

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

THE WEST Indies, the much talked-about, and, to a point, de­servedly so, world cham­pi­ons of three forms of the game, the men’s and women’s T20 cricket and the Un­der 19 cricket, 50 overs, had their wings clipped in the United Arab Emi­rates re­cently, and dis­as­trously so.

Af­ter win­ning the Un­der-19 com­pe­ti­tion on the back of a con­tro­ver­sial, though le­git­i­mate, run-out, and af­ter win­ning the men’s T20 leg of the three by an un­for­get­table, su­perb, fan­tas­tic and never be­fore four-sixes-ina-row as­sault in the last over of the fi­nal by Car­los Brath­waite, the West Indies nose­dived and crashed un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously.

Play­ing against Pak­istan in Abu Dhabi, the West Indies lost the first match by nine wick­ets and 5.4 overs when they were routed for 115 and the sec­ond by 16 runs af­ter Pak­istan had hopped to 160 for four and then sti­fled the West Indies at 144 for nine. In the third match, the West Indies lost the match by eight wick­ets af­ter they were lim­ited to 103 for five and Pak­istan cruised to 108 for two off 15.1 overs.

It must be noted that the West Indies were with­out Chris Gayle, their num­ber-one bats­man, and that they were also with­out their some­times big hit­ter, their some­times suc­cess­ful pacer, and their al­ways bril­liant and mag­nif­i­cent fielder An­dre Rus­sell, the man who so of­ten pulled them out of trou­ble with a few big hits and with a cou­ple wick­ets in 20 overs.

The West Indies knew this be­fore they ar­rived for the matches, how­ever, cer­tainly when they spoke, time and time again, some­times con­de­scend­ingly, about not tak­ing Pak­istan lightly, only for Pak­istan to turn around and rub their nose into the ground.

BEATEN BADLY

They may not have helped the team this time around, but the West Indies must have for­got­ten that there was no Gayle and no Rus­sell among them. They were beaten badly, and there can be no ex­cuse, re­gard­less of any­thing any­one might give, for the per­for­mance. Mar­lon Sa­muels

The bat­ting, ac­cord­ing to coach Toby Rad­ford, was dis­ap­point­ing and em­bar­rass­ing. He did not say so, but ob­vi­ously, he could eas­ily have said that the bats­men played with­out us­ing their head. They played with­out util­is­ing what is gen­er­ally called ‘com­mon sense’. Rad­ford did not say any­thing about them ei­ther, but the bowlers were hardly any bet­ter, cer­tainly not ac­cord­ing to the fig­ures. Ev­ery­one knows by this that the bet­ter team never al­ways wins T20 matches, some­times, not even does it win most times. A good T20 team is ex­pected to per­form in a man­ner that is not so dis­ap­point­ing, how­ever, and es­pe­cially so in its bat­ting. A good team is not ex­pected to per­form so badly, even if it is in­con­sis­tent, and cer­tainly not in the T20 game.

The sit­u­a­tion is sim­ply this: the West Indies bats­men, ex­cept for one or two on their day, can­not bat.

They do not know how to plan an in­nings, long or short; they do not know the value, the im­por­tance of push­ing the ball about when things are dicey; they do not know how to shift gears; and they do not know the value of tak­ing the strike or of not tak­ing the strike.

They play shots al­most from start to fin­ish of their in­nings. They, ob­vi­ously, most times, show no re­spect for the bowler by play­ing shots above their ca­pa­bil­ity and cer­tainly not called for.

Most times, the bats­men throw away their wick­ets by at­tempt­ing rash strokes. Some­times, they even give them away by care­less and sui­ci­dal run­ning be­tween the wick­ets.

Rad­ford claims that they love to hit fours and sixes and that they mostly play on quicker pitches and slightly smaller grounds where it eas­ier to do so.

Well if that is so, they must adapt to the slower pitches and big­ger grounds. That is what in­ter­na­tional cricket is all about, and that is what good bat­ting is all about. The truth is that the West Indies lose wick­ets in bunches and fall down in their own back­yard as easy they do in a far-away coun­try.

The T20 team in the United Arab Emi­rates does not have one good re­li­able bats­man on the team, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of the enig­matic Mar­lon Sa­muels and, prob­a­bly the promis­ing Evin Lewis, and not one of them, nor any of the top six, seven, or eight bats­men, but for one in­nings each from Dwayne Bravo and Sa­muels, has done any­thing worth­while.

The ex­cit­ing Ni­cholas Pooran bat­ted at num­ber six in the first match, his first match, and failed, then in the sec­ond match, while ev­ery other bats­man re­tained his place and their po­si­tions, Pooran was eased down to num­ber eight, where, like ev­ery­one else, the young­ster failed again, and in the third match, he bat­ted at num­ber six again, and failed again.

LOSS FOR WORDS

Cap­tain Car­los Brath­waite, like those be­fore him, had noth­ing to say, at least noth­ing that makes sense.

Like those be­fore him, he tried to find words, and all he could find, in re­ac­tion to the team fall­ing away and los­ing once again, was that the ‘bat­ting let us down’.

“To­day, it just did not come off for us. The bet­ter team won. Win­ning the next match is im­por­tant,” Brath­waite said af­ter one, or af­ter two of the de­feats.

The bat­ting is in a mess, and it has been that way for a long time, even de­spite the hir­ing and fir­ing of so many coaches.

This crit­i­cism of the West Indies team in the United Arab Emi­rates has noth­ing re­ally to do with the board or with pres­i­dent Dave Cameron.

As he said re­cently while in In­dia, his role is to run the busi­ness and the play­ers’ role is to play cricket, and by find­ing the money to im­prove the salaries of first-class crick­eters in the re­gion and to play the do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion on a home-an­d­away ba­sis, Cameron, at least, has tried to im­prove the standard of play.

COACHES MUST DO JOB

In or­der to im­prove the level of bat­ting, how­ever, and the all­round play of the West Indies, Cameron now needs to do two things: he needs to see to it that the coaches which he em­ploys do their work, or try to do their work, and he needs to see to it that the play­ers fo­cus on their job and lis­ten to the coaches.

He needs to re­mind the se­lec­tors also that good bat­ting is good bat­ting, re­gard­less of the type of cricket one is play­ing, and that is why, in T20 cricket, the good bats­men, or the great bats­men, were and are the likes of Chris Gayle, Bren­don McCul­lum, Vi­rat Kohli, AB de Vil­liers, Kane Wil­liamson, David Warner, Joe Root, Steve Smith, Ku­mar San­gakkara, Ma­hela Jayawar­dene, and com­pany.

Th­ese bats­men are bats­men, and they are the best in the world, in T20, in ODI, and in Test cricket. Their drives, their cuts, and their hooks are strokes of beauty and some­times awe­some power, their fours are most times strokes of tim­ing and el­e­gance, and their hits for sixes, mostly over lon­goff, long-on, mid-wicket, or be­hind square-leg, are some­times, and most times, well cal­cu­lated and well played.

The hope now is that the West Indies, es­pe­cially their bats­men, per­form bet­ter in the ODIs, and that they will do much bet­ter in the Test matches.

West Indies T20 cap­tain Car­los Brath­waite.

Tony Becca

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