Looking ahead to Test cricket championship and 50-over World Cup

Saturday, July 21, 2018

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Two months ago the Sandals-sponsored West Indies cricket team would have been satisfied with a 1-1 series draw against Sri Lanka and a 2-0 sweep of Bangladesh in the five-Test home series.

As it turned out, West Indies Captain Mr Jason Holder and his men are probably kicking themselves that they let the opportunity slip to beat sixth-ranked Sri Lanka in that three-Test series.

After trouncing Sri Lanka in the first Test in Port of Spain, the home side dropped catches and were also guilty on several occasions of overstepping the bowling crease (no balls) with deliveries which otherwise would have been wicket-taking efforts. Those unforced errors as well as weak second innings batting meant the West Indies had to settle for a draw in the second Test in St Lucia and ended up losing the final Test in Barbados by four wickets.

Execution was by no means perfect against Bangladesh but there was improvement, especially in terms of catching. In the end, West Indies were very convincing winners over Bangladesh in Antigua and Jamaica, displacing the Asians at number eight in the increasingly important ICC Test rankings.

Without doubt the West Indies will continue to be viewed as minnows at home and abroad. However, there could also be no doubt that West Indian fast bowling in the just ended home series was of a very high standard. Upcoming opponents in the Test match format, including India in that country later this year, will have taken careful note.

Of course, the top nine Test-playing nations including the West Indies are eyeing the new ICC Test Championship, which begins next year and extends to 2021.

The planned league is driven by television-dominated commercial realities and it's widely expected that the top four cricketing powers, India, Australia, South Africa and England, will be contesting the spoils — good reason for others to be especially motivated to upset the dollhouse.

Then of course there is the ICC 50-over World Cup in England next year. Readers will recall that West Indies stocks had fallen so low, that the team had to qualify ahead of lesser ranked countries in a tournament in Zimbabwe earlier this year.

Preparation for the World Cup resumes tomorrow (Sunday) with West Indies facing Bangladesh at Providence, Guyana in the first of two One-Day Internationals in that South American country. A third ODI will be played in St Kitts.

After those 50-over games, West Indies and Bangladesh will also face off in a T20 series in St Kitts and Florida.

But for now, Caribbean cricket watchers will be more focused on the ODIs with an eye to performances that could influence selection for the World Cup next year. Inevitably, the microscope will be on Mr Chris Gayle, who has been a champion batsman for the West Indies in limited overs' cricket for the better part of 20 years.

Now 38 years old, Mr Gayle of late has not shown the same consistency of yesteryear. Has time taken its toll? Or does he still have what it takes to make a difference for the West Indies' cause? What we all know for sure is that Mr Gayle will be redoubling his efforts – against Bangladesh and all other opposition in the months ahead – to prove the sceptics wrong.

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