A draw is better than a loss any day
Watching CricketTuesday, April 06, 2021
with Garfield Myers
I am not among those disappointed by West Indies' drawn Test series against Sri Lanka. In my book drawing is always better than losing. And let's not forget that Sri Lanka are at seven in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings, ahead of West Indies at eight.
Still, I can't help feeling the West Indies missed opportunities at vital times — particularly through dropped chances — to press home their advantage. That said, the reality is that Sri Lanka also put down a few chances.
It's a reminder that the truly successful teams take their catches. Much is often said of the great West Indies teams of the late 70s, 80s and early 90s which demolished opposition with their fast bowlers. It mustn't be forgotten that their slip catchers of that time were second to none.
From a purely West Indian point of view, the biggest takeaway in the Sri Lanka series was probably the batting of captain Kraigg Braithwaite in the second Test. The big question when he was made captain was whether he could rediscover the run-scoring form of his early years in Test cricket.
The signs in Bangladesh when he averaged 37.25 in two Tests from 149 runs in four innings — stroking the ball pleasingly — gave the selectors courage to gamble. They, like the rest of us, must have been worrying when Brathwaite struggled in the first Test against Sri Lanka.
But in the second Test, his batting — relying on his long-tested method of playing within his limitations while supporting his more aggressive teammates — brought back smiles.
Nkrumah Bonner's near-flawless second-innings, last-day unbeaten century which ensured a draw in the first Test and Kyle Mayers's batting in both Tests provided comforting reassurance that their heroics in Bangladesh were not by chance.
They, like Brathwaite, can hopefully carry on in similar vein against stern upcoming opposition — COVID-19 allowing — which we are told could include South Africa and Pakistan.
It seems to me that, for his own good, left-handed Jamaican opener John Campbell needs a break from Test cricket to work on correcting technical flaws. After an admirably battling 42 in his first knock of the series he fell away badly, getting out to catches to wicketkeeper and slip cordon against the highly skilled Sri Lankan seamers.
Readers may recall that in Bangladesh earlier in the year and in New Zealand late last year Campbell was falling LBW to deliveries angled in from around the wicket — playing around his front pad. The question will be who should partner Brathwaite at the top of the order, should Campbell be asked to make way.
A shortened regional four-day tournament during the period of the Indian Premier League in April and May would help as regards looking at possible replacement candidates. If that tentatively talked-about tournament happens, Jamaica Scorpions will again be caught short — as was the case prior to the Super50 tournament — because of this country's constraints on training brought on by the COVID-19 Disaster Risk Management orders.
Jermaine Blackwood looked a shadow of himself against Sri Lanka these last two weeks. He has capital in the 'bank' because of his record in England last year and in New Zealand, but he will be acutely aware that others such as Shai Hope, Roston Chase and Shamarh Brooks are waiting in the wings.
After impressing in New Zealand and Bangladesh, the 22-year-old Joshua Da Silva had mixed returns against Sri Lanka. He has the confidence of knowing he has time on his side and plenty of capital in the 'bank'.
Relieved of captaincy, all-rounder Jason Holder looked a happy man against Sri Lanka, gaining applause with bat and ball – capturing seven wickets at 18 each and averaging 69 with the bat. It was good to see his promotion up the batting order to number six. That's a long overdue move.
Shannon Gabriel, the traditional leader of the West Indies attack was way below his best in the first Test – going wicketless. On a juicy first day pitch, Gabriel was way down on pace and couldn't find his line and length. I strongly suspect that, had the big Trinidadian fast bowler been up to mark that first morning, Sri Lanka would have fallen well short of their eventual first innings 169.
He bowled magnificently at times in the second Test until injury forced him off the field on the final day, but there was no justice as three of four chances were dropped off his bowling. That meant he ended up with just one wicket over the two Tests.
The skilful Kemar Roach traditionally enjoys conditions in Antigua and was again penetrative, his nine wickets costing just under 24 each.
Alzarri Joseph improved in the second Test after a moderate start in the first, but knows his series return of four wickets at 53 each was below par.
Rahkeem Cornwall went wicketless in the second Test and would have been particularly disappointed that he had no impact on the last day when it was widely expected that the pitch would have become more difficult for batting. If anything, the pitch on the fifth day was close to being at its most benign.
Happily for Cornwall, he came to the party with the bat in this series, averaging 67 with two half-centuries. His dismissal for 73 in the second Test left one with the distinct impression that he was just tired. Can the 28-year-old man mountain achieve anywhere near the fitness levels required of a top-class all-rounder? I suspect only he can answer that.
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