Bowling hero Devendra Bishoo pointed to team unity after West Indies beat Zimbabwe by 117 runs with a day to spare in the opening match of the two-Test series at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Tuesday.
“The team togetherness is very good. We’re very comfortable (with) each other, we believe in each other, and I have no complaints,” leg-spinner Bishoo was quoted as saying.
It was a significant comment in light of what is required for success, even if the general feeling is that Zimbabwe are minnows.
West Indies made 219 (82.5 overs) and 373 (126 overs), Zimbabwe 159 (61.3 overs) and 316 (90.4 overs).
Bishoo had a match haul of nine for 184 off 56 overs including five for 79 off 24 overs in the first innings.
In following the match on the Internet and listening to commentaries, the pitch was helpful to spin bowlers from the first day with turn and bounce.
But the second innings totals reflected much more purpose and determination, and Zimbabwe must be given some credit for at least putting up a fight against the odds, albeit that there were a few injudicious strokes.
As far as Bishoo was concerned, one of the points being made by some observers was the fact that he struggled in the previous three-Test series in England, which the home side won 2-1. In two matches, he picked up just three wickets at 43 runs apiece from 42 overs.
It is no secret that the current West Indies selectors intend to give players an opportunity to redeem themselves after failures. Therefore, it is incumbent on the players themselves to step up and perform.
Skipper Jason Holder has called for patience in moulding the team. He has maintained a cool, level head even in the face of defeat and there are signs that once hard work is put in, success will come.
Apart from Bishoo, there were a few others who found the going tough in England.
Of the batsmen, opener Kieran Powell, Roston Chase and Kyle Hope all played in the full series. Powell scored 142 runs (ave: 23.66), Chase 80 (ave: 13.33), while Kyle Hope, in his debut series, mustered just 41 runs (ave: 6.83).
Now in the first Test against Zimbabwe, Powell scored 56 and 17, Kyle Hope 16 and 43 and Chase 31 and 95.
It was again inspirational that the likes of opener and vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite and the rapidly improving Shai Hope sustained their form from the series against England.
Against England, Shai Hope amassed 375 runs (ave: 75.00) including centuries in each innings of the memorable second Test at Headingley in Leeds, while Brathwaite made 293 (ave: 47.16).
Just a reminder that in the Headingley Test, which West Indies won by five wickets, Shai Hope hit his maiden Test century (147) and 118 not out – the first ever player to score centuries in both innings of a first-class match there. It was the 534th first-class match at the venue and 76th Test match. Brathwaite made 134 and 95.
In the opening Test against Zimbabwe, both Brathwaite and Shai Hope were again among the runs. Shai Hope scored 90 not out and 44, and Brathwaite three and 86.
While we all have our opinions on the players and how fortunes can fluctuate, close attention should be paid to some of the comments from those who are on show.
Take for instance what Chase said after the end of the third day’s play in Bulawayo. “I thought Kraigg played a really good innings. He wore down the bowlers for the other batsmen to come so that when we got out there they weren’t as fresh. That didn’t allow them to be as consistent as they wanted to be. Going in, my plan was to be aggressive towards the bowlers, to get the field changed around a bit and get some of the catchers from nearby away from the bat, to make it easier for me to play my natural game.”
Too often, fans take some players to task for their performances on the field without fully understanding the state of the game and the roles required. Chase’s comments were telling.
One of the things coning out of the first Test was that players like Powell and Kyle Hope in particular recognised how vital it was to improve on their game, especially with the tour to New Zealand following shortly after the series against Zimbabwe.
They should be inspired by the hard work and hunger shown by the likes of Brathwaite and Shai Hope, the younger brother of Kyle.
But there were a couple disappointments with the bat, namely Jermaine Blackwood and Shane Dowrich. Blackwood scored one and three, while wicket-keeper Dowrich made 11 and 12.
It boggles the mind when a batsman is dismissed stumped in both innings of the same match, as was the case with Blackwood. Slackness in his approach to batting is part of his undoing.
Dowrich has been under the microscope for the last couple series, both in front and behind the stumps. He must be hoping that as he celebrates his 26th birthday on Monday during the final Test, he can rise from the low scores, which started against Pakistan in the second Test at Kensington in April. Since then he has mustered exactly 100 runs from 12 innings including one not out, at an average of 9.09.
Now after 15 Tests, Dowrich has 565 runs including five half-centuries (ave: 22.60). Having followed his career closely from local domestic competitions, there is no question that he has it within him to lift his game all-round.
In 26 Tests, Blackwood has scored 1319 runs including one hundred and ten fifties, at an average of 30.67. Sometimes, there is a tendency to become so upset with the manner in which he loses his wicket that you reckon he should be dropped. Yet, it would be a bit harsh at this time in Blackwood’s case.
The attention now turns to sweeping the series and maintaining team unity ahead of what will be much tougher opposition in New Zealand.
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-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