Two words which describe insanity are “foolishness” and “madness”.
And what about the timing of the act? Ask Shannon Gabriel, the big West Indies fast bowler and rank No. 11 batsman.
With seven balls remaining in the third and final Test against Pakistan at Windsor Park in Dominica last Sunday and survival being the password as fielders clustered around the bat, Gabriel lost his composure and essayed a slog off leg-spinner Yasir Shah.
The ball took the inside edge and bowled him to give Pakistan a 101-run win. More telling was a 2-1 success for Mibah-ul-Haq’s team, which meant that Pakistan had won a Test series in the Caribbean for the first time since their inaugural tour in 1958.
It was a most painful moment for the West Indies team and their supporters. After all, until then, Gabriel had kept a fairly cool head, having faced 21 balls in partnership with Roston Chase, who hit his second century of the series and third in ten Tests – an unbeaten 101.
Set a victory target of 304 and starting the final day on seven for one, West Indies knew their main goal was to battle for a draw.
After slipping to 93 for six in the 44th over when Shane Dowrich was controversially given out caught at short-leg by Babar Azam off Yasir, it was generally felt that Pakistan would probably go on to win easily.
But the efforts of Chase, who batted all told for 366 minutes, faced 239 balls and struck 12 fours and one six, along with support from captain Jason Holder, Devendra Bishoo, Alzarri Joseph and Gabriel, kept interest in the match alive until that crazy stroke from Gabriel.
So West Indies were bowled out for 202 in 96 overs, which meant that the last four wickets added 109 runs in 52.4 overs.
The statistics show: Holder 22 (85 minutes, 62 balls), Bishoo 3 (71 minutes, 45 balls), Joseph 5 (59 minutes, 32 balls) and Gabriel 4 (32 minutes, 22 balls). Their efforts cannot go unnoticed. Occupation of the crease was so vital.
Honestly, it is easy to reflect on what happened at the very end and blister Gabriel relentlessly. But, had the 29-year-old Trinidadian been dismissed playing a defensive stroke, it would have been far more acceptable than a swipe.
Overcoming what he did must be tough for Gabriel. Gaining public support from the likes of Holder, West Indies head coach Stuart Law and one of the assistant coaches, Roddy Estwick, should, however, go a long way in helping him to keep strong and move on.
“We’ve just got to give him encouragement. Up until then, he was doing an outstanding job. He has done an outstanding job for us in this entire series,” Holder said.
“He bowled his heart out. He’s gotten a match-winning haul for us in Barbados (second Test), he bowled his heart out in Jamaica (first Test), he bowled his heart out here in Dominica.”
Gabriel was the leading West Indies wicket-taker in the series with 15 at 18.80 runs apiece, which also placed him at the top of the averages.
“He was devastated… (over) what went on but he’s a big man and he led the team beautifully when we took the field,” Law said.
“He has come a long way. He got through a whole series without getting injured, our leading wicket-taker and bowled with great pace and sustained pace, and kept coming.
“You can’t ask for much more from him for what he’s picked to do in the side. I spoke to him … and he’s feeling better but it might take a while for him to come to terms with what went on.
“As I’ve said to the team, we’ve got to stick together. We’ve got to back our teammates and look after each other,” Law said.
Frankly, the way in which some of the West Indies batsmen were dismissed left a lot to be desired. Overall, it was a series they would want to quickly forget.
Chase, a 25-year-old Barbadian, was by far the most outstanding batsman with 403 runs at an average of 100.75. He also took six wickets at 40.83 runs each as an off-spinner. Last week’s column dealt with his ability as an all-rounder.
Holder made 182 runs (ave: 45.50) and picked up ten wickets (ave: 21.00).
Openers Kraigg Brathwaite (101 runs; ave: 16.83) and Kieran Powell (161 runs; ave: 26.83) both know where they went wrong and what is required, especially with even more testing conditions for the series in England starting in August.
Of the other batsmen, Shai Hope scored 149 runs (ave: 24.83), Dowrich 109 (ave: 18.16), Shimron Hetmyer 96 (ave: 16.00) and Vishaul Singh 63 (ave: 10.50).
Left-handers Hetmyer and Singh, both from Guyana and playing in their first series, clearly have technical deficiencies. The 20-year-old Hetmyer did not cut it at No. 3 although there were glimpses of a batsman who is prepared to take on bowlers, while Singh’s poor catching and fielding compounded his woes.
Apart from Gabriel and Holder, the third seamer in Joseph took ten wickets (ave: 28.40). At the age of 20, he can only learn.
Leg-spinner Bishoo got nine wickets (ave: 39.55) and needs to be more penetrative.
There were also a couple question marks over Dowrich’s ‘keeping, mainly in relation to how he sometimes tends to get off his feet too quickly. It would be good for him to have a word with Mike Worrell, the former Barbados and West Indies ‘B’ team wicket-keeper.
Significantly, West Indies played an unchanged team throughout the series.
As far as Pakistan were concerned, winning the series meant a great lot for the 42-year-old Misbah and fellow ace batsman and former captain Younis Khan, 39, who both retired after such wonderful service.
Misbah was their top batsman with 271 runs (ave: 67.75) and even though Younis failed (122 runs; ave: 20.33), his slip fielding was truly outstanding as he took ten catches.
Yasir stood out with the ball, grabbing 25 wickets (ave: 21.96) including three ‘five-fors’.
The slow nature of the pitches came in for a hammering from television and radio commentators, as well as players. It is an area that the West Indies Cricket Board must seriously address, not only from an international perspective but also for domestic tournaments.
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 three-and-a-half 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: Keithfholder@gmail.com