FORMER West Indies Cricket Board (now Cricket West Indies) director Baldath Mahabir said the opening batting position continues to be a major problem for West Indies, saying other options can be considered as the region does not have enough resources to limit players to certain formats.
On Tuesday, England won the third and final Test match by 269 runs at Old Trafford, Manchester to clinch the series 2-1 to reclaim the Wisden Trophy.
The highest opening partnership in the series between John Campbell and Kraigg Brathwaite was 43, with the former especially having a difficult time on the tour.
Campbell scored 84 runs at an average of 16.80. Brathwaite was more promising, hitting 176 runs with two half centuries but struggled to find consistency as he ended with an average of 29.33. Only Jermaine Blackwood and Shamarh Brooks averaged over 30 for West Indies in the series.
In the series, the opening pair had partnerships of 43, 16, seven, one and zero. In the second innings of the first Test, Campbell was forced to retire hurt with a toe injury before returning at the end of the innings to help West Indies complete a four-wicket win.
Mahabir said, “We left here knowing that the batting was going to be a challenge and we left behind some of our best batsmen in terms of Test cricket in terms of (Darren) Bravo, (Shimron) Hetmyer, and like I said before we went, we missed Nicholas Pooran. Whatever has to be done to get West Indies batting up to strength has to be done.”
Shai Hope, who has been one of the most prolific batsmen in the world in ODI cricket, had a miserable series. He scored 105 runs at an average of 17.50 with a top score of 31.
Bravo, Hetmyer and Keemo Paul chose not to tour England because of covid19. Pooran is known for his success in white ball cricket, but Mahabir wants him to be considered for Test cricket.
Mahabir is uncertain if Bravo and Hetmyer would have made a difference in the series, especially with the bowling attack used by England in the third Test. England had fast bowlers James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer in the line up.
“I would also like to call the name of Brandon King because we really need to get an opening batsman or two, who could settle down the dressing room once they go in and bat out for a period of play that allows the team that breathing room. We have been losing too many wickets too quickly at the top and exposing our batting.”
He said in the region we cannot limit players to the shorter formats of the game. “When we identify a talent we are too limited in depth to be able to just pigeonhole or buttonhole a player into a particular format simply because the player has not played in that format in the Caribbean.”
Mahabir said similar to how Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard have returned to the international set up, he said CWI must explore options to ensure a strong Test team. “I think we need to look at our talent as a whole and utilise the full talent pool and develop the full talent pool that we have to best represent the West Indies.”
More on the opening position, he said, “(It is) a real worry. If you look around the Caribbean outside of Brandon King who can be an attacking player at the top of the order, I don’t think we have an opening batsman who is creating waves in the Caribbean.”
Mahabir added that because of our low bouncing pitches in the Caribbean the Windies batsmen may struggle to face bouncers from fast bowlers overseas.
The former CWI director said the Windies fast bowling attack has the “ingredients.”
Former West Indies fast bowler Tony Gray also said the Windies fast bowling department looked promising with the likes of Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach and captain Jason Holder.
“I thought that the first Test match was excellent, bowlers did what they were supposed to do. I think that Roach was a little unlucky in that first Test match but he showed that unremitting spirit and continued to show that great commitment. When you look at Shannon Gabriel in the first Test match, (he was) excellent. Coming back from that ankle injury…showing commitment and he showed commitment all the way through.”
Gray agrees with Mahabir that the Windies batsmen struggle with short deliveries. He said England realised our weakness and had a fielder at leg slip regularly.