Another Test series against a top nation. Another West Indies loss.
One can end any analysis of a failed Windies Test series performance with the above sentence, because there isn’t much to be said that hasn’t been regurgitated ad-nauseam by frustrated Windies supporters over the past 23 years.
Former Windies opener and captain Daren Ganga, speaking to the Indian media after the predictable first Test drubbing in Rajkot, made an eye-opening statement that caught attention.
“The alarm bells are still ringing. But they’ve been ringing from 5 to 7 to 10 years, you get jaded hearing them ring,” Ganga told The Indian Express.
Has there been a chain of events in the last 5 to 7 to 10 years that has caused the current sense of disillusionment with the Windies team, particularly in Tests?
A potential answer could be the pivotal moment in 2010 when the Cricket West Indies (CWI), earlier known as West Indies Cricket Board, under the leadership of a St Lucian President Julian Hunte and Chief Executive Officer Ernest Hilaire, took the unprecedented step of making their countryman, Darren Sammy, the Test captain over Chris Gayle.
This was when the board’s tussle with the senior players was beginning to escalate as they were highly sought during the early days of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Sammy, like Jason Holder today, was treated as a golden child of Windies cricket who would lead a new generation of players, who are interested in Test cricket, away from the “T20 rebels”.
The dismal end to Sammy’s Test captaincy, as mentioned in this article, along with his famous speech attacking the board in front of millions after 2016 World T20 title win, categorically prove that Sammy’s Test experiment by the board failed and they shamefully got rid of him when he turned on them.
Now, since 2015, again under the tyrannical leadership of Dave Cameron and former controversial director of cricket Richard Pybus, Holder’s tenure as captain is a full reincarnation of the Sammy era.
So, can any player out there help the team get better? Or has the board policies of the last decade to systematically remove all experienced players from the team because of the misguided belief that they only care for, or are only good in T20 cricket, totally destroyed any prospects of getting things right?
Recall Denesh Ramdin as captain and wicket-keeper
When Ramdin was first removed from captaincy in 2015, the selectors claimed the move was made because of his below-par average of 25 and said he needed to improve his batting. Ramdin, in his first full opportunity to play first-class cricket since then, responded brilliantly by finishing second behind Devon Smith in the run-scoring charts during the just-concluded 2017/18 season. He made 799 runs in 10 matches for Trinidad & Tobago at an average of 61.46, including three centuries and four fifties.
Yet, the selectors went against their own policy and stuck with the incumbent Shane Dowrich for home series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Dowrich somewhat rewarded the faith placed in him with a century against Sri Lanka, batting at number six, but interestingly against India, the selectors dropped him to number seven.
If Dowrich, whose average is just two points higher than Ramdin at 27, cannot be trusted to be a long-term wicketkeeper-batsman in the top six when facing elite teams, like his contemporaries Johnny Bairstow, Rishab Pant, Quinton De Kock, Mushfiqur Rahim, there is no point keeping him in team ahead of Ramdin, whose captaincy experience would be very valuable to the struggling Test team.
Get Evin Lewis to open the innings
Pakistan handing Test debut to Fakhar Zaman, India promoting Jasprit Bumrah and Handik Pandya to Test cricket on the basis of limited-overs’ form and England going out of their way to pick Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid again for red-ball cricket expose another flaw in how Windies have failed to build Test squad as the world has left them behind.
Lewis should have been made Kraigg Brathwaite’s partner a long time ago, but the selectors never promoted him. Instead, they recalled domestic opener Devon Smith and persisted with the failing Kieran Powell.
Now Lewis has turned down a central contract from CWI and who knows if they can ever convince him to play Test cricket again.
Recall the best batsman — Darren Bravo
Simply put, the sooner Bravo is back in the Windies middle order, the better. His experience alongside the solid Roston Chase and two very talented young players in Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer has the potential on paper to give Windies a middle order of some respectability.
Make Sunil Narine the main spinner
If Sunil Narine and his bowling coach, the world-renowned Carl Crowe, feels his action that has been remodelled a few times after being regularly reported since 2014 can handle the rigours of Test cricket, then he will be a massive improvement on Devandra Bishoo and Jomel Warrican.
Remove Holder as Test captain
With the series loss in India, Holder now boasts a slightly worse record as captain than Sammy.
Sammy won seven out of 30 Tests and three series as captain from 2010 to 2014. Holder now has won six out of 30 tests and two series as captain from 2015.
Holder continues to go from strength to strength as an all-rounder, along with having a fantastic year with the ball. However, his comments ahead of the Hyderabad Test were another example of why he must be relieved of captaincy.
“We’re playing the No 1 team, India, in their backyard. And history would show we haven’t won a Test match here since 1994, and if you look at the players who came through West Indies cricket – I think Brian Lara and these greats have been playing all that time,” Holder said ahead of Hyderabad Test.
“Sure, we probably haven’t won as many series as we’d like. But within the last year, I think we’ve won two out of four or five series we’ve played. So I don’t understand why people would be this harsh towards us.”
“But everyone is entitled to their opinion. I just focus primarily on what I have to do and what the team has to do. There’s no point worrying about what people have to say because people will always have (something) to say. The only way we can silence the critics – or try to silence them, because I don’t think they’ll never shut up – is by playing (good) cricket.”
This statement read like a straight pre-rehearsed public relations excuse in case they were thrashed in Hyderabad. At times, it’s hard to tell, if Holder actually believes in his comments or is he being instructed to say these things by the board.
After the team’s series defeat, one would hope, he would realise why the critics won’t shut up now until a new captain is installed and almost all of the aforementioned players are picked for the Bangladesh tour.