Cautious confidence in Caribbean ahead of WI vs Sri Lanka test seriesSaturday, March 20, 2021
There is quiet confidence in the Caribbean cricket fraternity ahead of tomorrow's start of the first of two Tests against Sri Lanka in Antigua following triumphs in the Twenty20 and One-Day International (ODI) segments of the tour.
However, cautious cricket watchers will remember last month's tour of Bangladesh, when the West Indies Test squad — without key players, including former captain Mr Jason Holder — swept their hosts 2-0. Readers may recall that the Test series victory came immediately after the West Indies limited overs' squad — albeit even more depleted than the Test squad — had been humiliated in the ODIs.
The demands of Test cricket are very different from those of the shorter versions of the game, and all concerned need to be cognisant.
This newspaper would expect that coach Mr Phil Simmons and new West Indies captain Mr Kraigg Brathwaite have been at pains to make clear to the players that there can be no room for complacency and that nothing should be taken for granted.
Also, all should bear in mind that despite the absence of the pacy, aggressive fast bowler Mr Lahiru Kumara — who missed the trip to the Caribbean after testing positive for COVID-19, as well as former captain Mr Angelo Mathews, who left the tour for personal reasons — the visitors are a very talented group.
Sri Lanka are ranked seventh in the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Test match ratings, one place ahead of West Indies at eighth. The last time the two teams met in a Test series was in 2018 in the Caribbean. That was drawn 1-1.
Furthermore, just two years ago Sri Lanka shocked South Africa 2-0 in that country — a series the hosts were expected to win easily, given the strength of their fast bowling. It's useful to note that after that Test series loss, the South Africans bounced back to comfortably win the T20 and ODI campaigns.
Much attention entering tomorrow's first Test in Antigua will be on the leadership of Mr Brathwaite with his predecessor, fellow Barbadian and highly talented all-rounder Mr Holder, included as an “integral” part of the team.
It helps that both have known each other and played together since their earliest years in cricket.
Mr Brathwaite tells us that “He [Mr Holder] has my full support and I have his full support so we're going to work as a team”.
And lead West Indies selector Mr Roger Harper has suggested that Mr Holder will contribute even more to West Indies cricket, having been relieved of leadership.
Says Mr Harper: “…it is an opportunity for him [Mr Holder] to really focus on taking his game to an even higher level. With him at his best and Kraigg now with the captaincy, it is an opportunity for the team to move forward.”
Beyond cricket, there is politics. The first Test is being played ahead of the Cricket West Indies presidential election later this month at which incumbent president Mr Ricky Skerritt will be challenged by Guyana Cricket Board Secretary Mr Anand Sanasie.
Very recent on-the-field results would have done Mr Skerritt's chances no harm at all. He will be hoping for further boost from Mr Brathwaite and his men.
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