Despite the struggles of West Indies batsmen in the recent series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, former Barbados and West Indies opener Philo Wallace says the current cadre of players possesses the tools to take the region forward.
But the former Barbados captain believes that some of them have to make adjustments to their game to fit specific situations when they arise. Wallace noted that with the exception of Devon Smith who is 36 years old, the regional side had a core group that could take them up the ladder of international cricket.
“When one looks at the age of these players, I think they will be around for several years. After a squad has been together for such a length of time, they should start to perform. By then, they should be well aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and would have built confidence as a unit, therefore they should start to win more Test matches,” Wallace said.
He added: “I like the majority of our batsmen, but I have a special liking for Shai Hope. I think he can score runs at all levels of the game. He is prolific for Barbados at the regional level and is one of the few batsmen who scores double centuries in our first class cricket.
“At the Test level, Shai has that record of scoring centuries in both innings in the second Test against England at Headingley to win that Test match for the West Indies last year. When a batsman who seems to have that special touch begins to score runs, tongues start to wag and everyone will expect him to dominate in Test cricket almost every time he goes to the crease.”
However, Wallace suggested that Hope had some technical flaws which he needed to address if he wanted to be more prolific.
“Hope has some technical deficiencies that he has to work on. One of the things our young batsmen need to understand is that while they might score a century or two hundreds in a Test match, in the following Test they start at zero, and have to assess the opposition all over again. There is so much technology around that their opponents get to view footage of how their play. I have detected that Shai tends to get square on the ball when it is bouncing. When it is coming into him on a length, he plays away from his body. Therefore he has to be a lot more tighter when he is defending, his bat must be straighter and present an open bat face on to the ball rather than a closed bat face which has created problems for him. These are problems that can be corrected in the nets with the West Indies batting coach or even with a coach of his choice. Hope needs to go into the nets and bat for a considerable amount of time, videotape what he is doing and try to get his rhythm back. Shai has lost the rhythm he had in England last year,” Wallace explained.
Wallace said opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite who had a lean time against Sri Lanka but rebounded with two centuries against Bangladesh, had to understand that his style of batting might not always be the correct way.
“Kraigg continues to bat his way but he has to understand there are occasions when his way of batting might not be the correct way. I think the bowlers worked him out and he has to counteract that by changing his mindset. Kraigg has become bogged down too much when he is batting in a defensive role. I have noticed that sometimes when he is playing shots, he looks a better player. On the other hand, when he is batting for survival Kraigg looks ungainly and gets into some very bad positions to defend the ball. This was clearly shown in the series against Sri Lanka when he was dismissed softly a couple of times which was out of character for a batsman of his calibre. He has such a strong mental character that he was able to shrug off his failure against Sri Lanka and rebound with two back to back centuries against Bangladesh. My suggestion to him is that he revisit his successes and analyse them in order to move forward because he has a big role to play in taking West Indies cricket forward for several years,” Wallace said.
He added that Roston Chase was another young batsman with a massive responsibility on his shoulders who had fallen into a rut.
“Chase does not know when to play at the short ball or not, particularly when its in-swinging because he lunges forward on the front foot. Once the ball is banged in short and coming back into him, he is in no man’s land and more often than not, when a batsman finds himself in that position, he drags the ball into his stumps. If the ball is head-height he flinches at it and is caught at short-leg or by the wicketkeeper. These are things that he needs to work on which are not difficult to overcome. It is just about balance, getting into that back and across position and staying balanced and being able to negotiate the ball if it is full or short,” Wallace said.
Wallace was also impressed with the way Shane Dowrich batted against Sri Lanka and said leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo had shown improvement since former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed came to the region and conducted a clinic for spinners earlier this year.
Wallace now lives in Trinidad and Tobago and is pursuing a law degree. He expressed concern that he was not seeing a lot of past players attending cricket-related events.
“I am disappointed that most of our cricket legends are not attending functions like the WIPA Awards. Look, they might not like the way how some things are being done off the field but our past cricketers have a vital part to play in taking our cricket forward. All of them cannot be coaches but they have vast knowledge and should share it. I would like to see our former cricketers interacting more with our young cricketers,” Wallace said.