So the first test match begins. It is Monday morning. 12:30 AM Caribbean time,to be precise . More than half of the fans around the region, including myself I will admit, have already erased all expectations of the West Indies being successful and performing brillantly against Sri Lanka for this series. Yet I stay up to rally and hope something will happen. The ‘something’ I am referring to inculcates a strong desire for the popular steady decline of Caribbean cricket to be eliminated once and for all, and for the sport to rise out of its ‘death throes’. Being the avid supporter, I am awake despite having millions of things to do on Monday morning, only to realise that no local channels have bothered to buy rights for the coverage of the series on my island. Even more infuriated and bitter I became, when I learnt that the series would be shown on the channel that comes in the sports package which must be paid for. Now I sit there at midnight thinking.. Really? Why did I take the movie package? AND NOT THE SPORTS PACKAGE?
But in all seriousness, this has never happened before. Local channels always broadcast cricket when its overseas. Cricket as we know it, is dying a painful death here in the Caribbean so I am of the opinion that what is needed to quell the situation woud be to promote it, get the youths involved, advertise, encourage the kids so that we have a future for our cricket. First steps in this process would be to shed exposure on to the game and by this I mean broadcast it, make it become a form of entertaiment again, give it a sense of interest.
So no television to watch, frustrated and a night in which I had no access to the internet meant that streaming was out of the question. No radio coverage available either. And all on this night, fireworks from Chris Gayle goes off. Finding out on Monday morning that the cool guy had hit a double century made me both sad and happy. Sad I didnt get to see it and overjoyed at both Gayle’s innings and the fact that I managed to wake up and the boys were still batting with less than 5 wickets down. The two young openers, Adrian Barath and Darren Bravo on his test debut, also impressed with the bat both hitting half centuries. The first day was filled with entertainment from Gayle – 26 fours and 8 sixes, ( on the second day this became 9 sixes) in which he ended the day’s play on 219.
Thankfully I had my computer back the following night so I could stream again and saw Mr. Cool surpass his own personal test total best of 317 to get to 333. Other milestones were attained but his scintillating innings including being the highest scoring West Indian on the subcontinent getting the better of Rohan Kanhai’s 256 in Kolkata in 1962 against India. He is now the 4th batsman after Don Bradman, Brian Lara and Virender Sehwag to score 2 triple centuries. He now holds the highest individual score by a cricketer against Sri Lanka beating back Younis Khan’s 313 for Pakistan. Gayle has has become the West Indian with the highest indiviual score away from home with his triple surpassing Sir Vivian Richards’ score of 291 at The Oval in 1971. The 9 sixes he hit in his innings is now the most by a West Indian batsman in a single test innings.
Despite Gayle’s brilliant innings, the typical West Indian trait of that familiar batting collapsed still lingered. Things were pretty solid at 559/4 with Gayle and Nash at the helm but we soon saw the team at 580/9. This is one of the MAJOR issues we always seem to experience with the batting. Everything is steady then it suddenly starts to go downhill after a solid start. Mendis spun his way through the West Indian lineup and saw the boys declaring before reaching the 600 mark. Sammy in is his first test match as captain made a duck. Not a very good showing by the captain but it’s his first so I shouldn’t be too critical. All the rain and badlight that threatened this test was disappointing because I think the result would have been in our favour if nature didnt have its way.
I have not been pleased with the West Indian bowling attack for sometime now but I liked what transpired due to Roach’s and Shillingford’s efforts which wound up seeing Sri Lanka being bowled out and having to bat again. This was the first time in 15 years we have made a team follow on abroad. Folks around here are already questioning Sammy’s abilty as the captain beause of his poor bowling and batting in the first test. As I said before, it is tough to be the captain. They are always the first to be criticised. And seeing that Sammy’s position raised so many eyebrows, 10 times the amount of criticism will be directed. Some even ask if he will be selected for the 2nd test and see him as only being more of a One Day International sort of player. But who knows? We have to wait to see what happens in the 2nd test.
Gayle’s innings I know put smiles on faces and brought shock to many because we all know Sri Lanka is a team of high calibre and bowling is one of their strong points but no Murali anymore and with Malinga resting, I say the boys should use this to their advantage. West Indies’ reputation of losing things easily when they are in a strong position is all too common. I have seen the guys be bowled out completely on batting pitches and struggle on bowler-friendly ones. Consistency and commitment are the key words.
Shane Shillingford has been suspected of illegal arm action by the umpires and I await to hear more as this story develops. It would truly be sad if this is true though as his bowling was essential during the first test. This is not new though as he was previously suspected of such action. Even if this is true, I hope that he will undergo the proper steps to remedy this problem and not end up as other potential bowlers in the CARIBBEAN WHO ENCOUNTERED THESE ISSUES WERE NOT PAID ATTENTION TO BY THE BOARD AND JUST LEFT BEHIND. I refer to guys who were left on the wayside like Jermaine Lawson for instance.
Anyways I am rallying as usual and despite everything, I will admit that I had never even expected a draw in Sri Lanka. I expected losses right through. I hope the boys pull through again for the rest of the series and our bowling and batting are in order and all continues on a positive note for the Caribbean men.
Article by Justine Daniel