To have eight players in a 20-man West Indies squad preparing for the three-Test series against England in the Caribbean starting next month can be viewed as a plus for Barbados.
Of the eight, four are current Test players in opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite, pacer Kemar Roach, fast bowling all-rounder Jason Holder and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn. The others are batsman Shai Hope, who also keeps wicket, another wicket-keeper/batsman in Shane Dowrich, fast bowling all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite and seamer Miguel Cummins.
No wonder Hartley Reid, manager of the Barbados Pride team, proudly stated that Barbados’ cricket is on a “positive and upward trend” following the conclusion of the regional Professional Cricket League first-class Championship on Monday.
Barbados finished second to new champions Guyana Jaguars after winning the title the two previous seasons. Ironically, had they been more positive with their batting in both innings against Guyana in Round 7 at Kensington Oval when they lost by four wickets, the title could have been theirs again.
With all due respect to Reid, however, some of the tactics used by Barbados during the season, especially from a batting perspective, were mind-boggling. And they climaxed in such vein by opting for batting practice against Jamaica at Sabina Park on the last day.
Although Guyana clinched the title with one round of matches left, there was still a need for Barbados to play positively and press for a win against Jamaica who had one of their worst seasons for a long time.
Barbados had the upper hand for the first two days and two sessions but then clearly became frustrated by Jamaica’s negative bowling and allowed the match to drift into a dull draw.
Here is the scenario: Barbados scored 310 all out in 97.3 overs in their first innings and dismissed Jamaica for 228 in 94.1 overs.
At tea on the third day, Barbados were 130 without loss off 53 overs, giving them an overall lead of 212. Captain Kraigg Brathwaite was then on 69 and Omar Phillips, 58. By the close of play, they had crawled to 168 for two off 81 overs –– an overall lead of 250. Phillips fell for 59 and Hope for four as Brathwaite moved to 78 with Shamarh Brooks on 21.
It therefore meant that only 38 runs were scored off 28 overs in the last session with Brathwaite adding just nine.
The slow pattern continued on the final day as the score reached 203 for four off 109.1 overs by lunch including the dismissals of Brooks for 38 and Brathwaite for 90 –– both to the Jamaica captain and off-spinner Tamar Lambert, who kept pegging away from around the wicket.
At tea Barbados were 257 for five off 145 overs and when it was agreed to end play one hour after the interval, the score was 303 for nine off 156 overs –– an overall lead of 385.
Apart from those who were at the ground, anyone watching the streaming on the WICB website would have seen defensive bowling and no doubt field setting by Jamaica in the second innings. But the Barbados batsmen could have improvised, allowing for a declaration to keep interest in the game alive.
In such situations, teams must be mindful that there are fans following the progress of the match and they can be turned off with what is being exhibited.
Players tend to be wary of their statistics and if one wants to get ridiculous, Jomel Warrican, the Barbados left-arm spinner who was his team’s leading wicket-taker with 49 scalps including two eight-wicket hauls at 14.97 runs apiece, could easily argue that he was denied a chance to end with at least 50.
Kraigg Brathwaite, Hope and Dowrich were among five batsmen who scored over 600 runs in the six-team Championship –– the others were the Windward Islands opening pair of Devon Smith (822; ave: 54.80) and Tyrone Theophile (689; ave: 43.06) –– in which each side played the other twice.
Brathwaite amassed 660 including three centuries and two fifties at an average of 60.00; Hope made 628 with two hundreds and three half-centuries (ave: 44.85) and Dowrich, 615 (ave: 51.25), also recording the same number of centuries and half-centuries as Hope.
Of the other Barbados batsmen who stood out, Roston Chase scored 534 runs (ave: 44.50) including one hundred and two half-centuries and Shamarh Brooks, given a chance in the last two rounds after a string of failures by the experienced Kirk Edwards, hit two centuries in scoring 264 runs (ave: 51.16).
It was an awful season for Edwards. In four matches, he mustered just 59 runs (ave: 9.83) and must now go back to the drawing board as he ponders his future, which just a couple seasons ago looked rosy when he not only captained Barbados but was also in the West Indies Test and One-Day International teams.
In relation to the West Indies squad who will be preparing for the series against England, there are no major surprises. At least the selectors have shown that they are prepared to reward young talent like Hope, who at the age of 21 looked the part at the crease.
His double-century (211) against the Windward Islands at Kensington Oval in the penultimate round was one of high quality. And the fact that he is also a wicket-keeper is a plus.
The 23-year-old Dowrich, too, clearly realised that as the first choice Barbados wicket-keeper, the presence of Hope meant that he had to pay more attention to his batting. That is healthy for Barbados and West Indies cricket.
At the same time, however, the omission of another talented Barbadian batsman, Jonathan Carter, must leave one to wonder if the selectors do not have him in their plans for the longest version of the game.
Admittedly, Carter was a failure with the bat in the four-day championship (he scored only 51 runs; ave: 10.20) in four matches before he was called up for the ODI series in South Africa and also played in the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, but here is a case of another naturally gifted player who should be in the mix-up in all versions.
As far as the World Cup is concerned, the inconsistency of the West Indies was again shown in their quarter-final match against New Zealand in Wellington last Saturday as they suffered a crushing 143-run defeat.
There was a lot for rookie 23-year-old captain Jason Holder to learn throughout the tournament but he can only become stronger with support from his players, especially the seniors.
So it is now down to the final between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne on Sunday with Michael Clarke’s team favoured to lift the Cup.
Keith 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 (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: [email protected].