Beleaguered West Indies to face grieving Sri Lanka

Saturday, May 26, 2018

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The world of sport is increasingly focused on football's FIFA World Cup in Russia which begins in mid-June.

But the dwindling numbers who still follow West Indies cricket will be aware of five crucial Test matches over the next two months against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh on Caribbean soil.

A dark cloud has preceded arrival of the Sri Lankans. The tour party was getting ready to leave for the Caribbean when news struck that the highly talented and exciting young batsman Mr Dhananjaya de Silva, who led Sri Lanka A against West Indies A in Jamaica in 2017, has had to withdraw following the murder of his father.

Sri Lankan police say that Mr Ranjan de Silva, the cricketer's father who was a city councillor, was shot dead on Thursday night. It comes as a sad reminder of the scourge of evil and violence which undermines the human condition on a universal scale.

On behalf of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, this newspaper offers our sympathies to the bereaved de Silva family and Sri Lanka cricket.

The three-Test tour by the Sri Lankans, to be followed by two Tests between Bangladesh and the West Indies, are of the utmost importance for all concerned, but perhaps more so for the hosts.

In the one-day format, West Indies skipper Mr Jason Holder and his men secured some degree of breathing space when they qualified in March for next year's 50-over ICC World Cup in England.

But that was soon followed by news that under the ICC rating system, the West Indies are now ranked at ninth, below Bangladesh, among Test-playing nations.

That fall followed their disastrous showing in New Zealand late last year, beaten 2-0 in a Two-Test series. It wasn't just that they lost in New Zealand, the truth is that West Indies were thoroughly thrashed.

That depressing experience actually followed signs that the youthful West Indies team was showing signs of growth, even while losing by 1-2 margins to Pakistan in the Caribbean and away to England, and then defeating Zimbabwe 1-0 in that country last year.

The challenge for Mr Holder and his men,s who are all growing up together, will be to put the New Zealand experience firmly behind them. They must now focus on consistently playing the kind of cricket which took them to that shockingly famous victory against England at Headingley last August and against Pakistan in Barbados just under four months earlier.

It's not easy playing for the West Indies nowadays, be it five-day Test or the shorter formats, burdened as the players are by debilitating negatives of every sort. But they have shown that if they can block out those negatives, believe in themselves and focus, the sky is the limit.

Administrators of West Indies cricket — as pressured as the players — and the dwindling faithful also know that the very survival of Test match cricket in the Caribbean, dating back 90 years, is at stake.

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