2-0 TEST SERIES SUCCESS AGAINST NEW ZEALAND WAS WELL DESERVED
In the face of the great attention being paid to the Olympic Games in London, it was most fitting that West Indies completed a 2-0 Test series sweep of New Zealand in Jamaica where celebrations are still going wild over the tremendous feats of their track and field athletes, led by the amazing sprinter Usain Bolt.
As West Indies were racing to a five-wicket win last Sunday on the fourth morning at Sabina Park, sports fans were bracing for the 100-metre showdown between Bolt and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake. And Jamaicans were stepping up preparations for the island’s 50th Independence anniversary the following day.
The euphoria of West Indies’ success was sure to have a Jamaican element about it. Marlon Samuels did not miss the moment. He scored 123 and 52 and duly won the man-of-the match award. It was his fourth Test century and first on home turf. With a sense of occasion, he remarked: “Most definitely, this is for Jamaica, the die-hard fans.”
The fact that it was the first series win for West Indies against a team other than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe in the last three years should make them start to believe in themselves again. Furthermore, the last time they won two consecutive Tests in a series was a decade ago in Bangladesh. Man, that is really long!
Significantly as well, Darren Sammy’s team had to fight from behind after being led on first innings by 51 runs, when compared with the nine-wicket victory in Antigua where they piled up 522 in the first innings for a lead of 171 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium and ultimately chased only 102 to win.
There would have been some anxious moments when the score was 20 for two in pursuit of 206 for victory with openers Chris Gayle and Kieran Powell, who both scored centuries in the opening Test, back in the pavilion.
Even at 113 for four when nightwatchman Kemar Roach joined veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul, it called for application and consolidation. The way Roach batted and even outscored Chanderpaul en route to a Test best score of 41 in a fifth wicket partnership of 70, was yet another plus.
Roach was soon to also enjoy another wonderful moment as man-of-the-series for his 12 wickets at 18.25 runs apiece. He has now emerged as the leading West Indies fast bowler and boasts of 39 wickets at 22.25 each this year.
“To be honest, it was quite tough but there was a job to be done for the West Indies and I am one of the leading bowlers, so obviously I have to lead from the front,” Roach said.
“I’ve been trying to bowl much straighter, obviously keeping the batsmen playing as much as possible. Of course, as a fast bowler, I’d like faster, bouncier wickets.”
There is no doubt that Roach is a bowler who understands the game. The late chairman of the West Indies selectors Joey Carew spoke highly of him early in his career and said he reminded him of another Barbadian, the legendary Sir Wesley Hall, in relation to his approach to the wicket.
If there is one problem, however, which must be of concern to Roach, it is the high number of no-balls which he delivers. He has acknowledged that he needs to do more work towards correcting it. So how does he address the issue apart from working with the West Indies Head coach Ottis Gibson?
One of the benefits for Roach is that the Barbados Cricket Association domestic season is in full swing. It provides him with an opportunity to go into the nets and work closely with his club coach at Maple, Henderson Bryan, the former Barbados fast bowler who also played One-Day Internationals for West Indies.
Sometimes we tend to focus a great deal on what happens on the international arena, but returning to your roots and ironing out certain problems will always be crucial to one’s career. And with the sort of loyalty which Roach has shown to Maple, there is every reason for him to quietly put in the necessary work.
The West Indies Test series win again New Zealand followed a clean sweep of the two-match Twenty20 and a 4-1 triumph in the ODI series against the same opponents. And while it is accepted that we all yearn for such success against leading teams like England, South Africa and Australia, one gets the feeling that things are gradually coming together.
Hard work & dedication
No wonder Gibson and team manager Richie Richardson have pointed to hard work and dedication.
“I would say to the players to take belief from the work they are putting in because I see the work they are putting in every day. The players are working hard and deserve their success. I want to give them credit. They deserve to be excited about their achievements,” Gibson said.
Richardson remarked: “I am very proud of Darren Sammy and the boys with the way they played in all three formats against New Zealand. The hard work, the dedication, the sacrifice and the desire to improve have paid dividends. These are some of the building blocks as we look to build a strong West Indies team. Lots of credit must also be given to coach Gibson and the entire management staff, who are all contributing to the development of a strong West Indies team.”
These are words that need to be well digested. They seem so refreshing when one considers that far too often in the last decade, we have had to endure a defensive summation at the end of a series.
It is also good to hear positive comments from some former West Indies players, as was the case last Tuesday night on Mid Wicket when Ridley Jacobs, who was a special guest, reckoned the team was showing fighting qualities and felt Sammy was doing a reasonably good job as skipper. Coincidentally, Jacobs, now in Barbados as coach of the Leeward Islands team for the regional Under-19 team, was the West Indies captain when they beat Bangladesh 2-0 in 2002.
We can now only hope for more consistency and success.
SFlbKeith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association Division 1 championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org).