West Indies batting need Chris Gayle’s firepower © Getty Images
West Indies batting need Chris Gayle’s firepower © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

When West Indies lost the first One-Day International (ODI) against India in the ongoing series between the two teams, one just got the feeling that they did not have enough runs on the board. This is something we have seen from the West Indies often in the last few years as the batsmen just have not performed to their potential. The West Indies bowlers have done decently well, but there is nothing much they can do if their batsmen do not give them a good score to defend or are not able to chase a total very well.

 

When you look at the West Indies batting line-up you would find a lot of individual talent such as Lendl Simmons, Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels. Chris Gayle has been kept out due to certain disagreements with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul has not found a place in the ODI setup due to some issues. But once they join the line-up, it bolsters to become one of the strongest when you consider individual talent and abilities. However, they have not translated that into consistent performances on the field and that continues to haunt.

 

West Indies lost the series 2-3 to Pakistan – all their losses coming after they batted first. Their scores batting first in that series were 221, 220 and 171. In the first ODI against India they crawled to 214. In modern day ODI cricket, such scores are way below par as on most occasions batsmen manage to score around 250 even on the toughest of pitches. There may be an odd 220, but when it happens on a consistent basis it just shows that the batting is struggling.

 

Their openers have not been able to provide them with good brisk starts. Since they have dropped Chris Gayle, the others have not provided them with the same impetus at the top. Lendl Simmons has been in good form since his comeback but to replace Gayle is a very different kettle of fish.

 

In the middle overs they just clog and are unable to rotate the strike easily. And as the slog overs approach, they fall like a pack of cards attempting to clear the ground. This happened in the ODI series against Pakistan and continued into the first ODI against India.

 

The West Indies need to revise their batting strategies and the order. Firstly, they need to bring back Chris Gayle. Enough of the ego issues and the disputes as they need his good form to provide them with rollicking starts at the top. His inclusion will take the pressure off Lendl Simmons as he would just have to rotate strike and let Gayle take the attack to the opposition.

 

The slow starts are putting too much pressure on the middle order comprising Darren Bravo, Sarwan, Samuels and Dwayne Bravo. Darren Bravo is a young promising talent, but isn’t very consistent. He bats at No 3 which is a very important position in any form of the game and you need somebody who is very consistent. Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar batted down the order early into their ODI careers and only came up once they matured and gained more experience. It is said that Darren Bravo is the next Brian Lara. But like the great man, he should bat a little down the order and should only come up once he is a few years old in the international arena.

 

Samuels struggled a touch after making an international comeback in the series against Pakistan, but his knock in the first ODI against India indicated that his fluency and form was coming back. It may be a good idea for him to swap places with Darren Bravo, which means Bravo at No 5 and Samuels at No 3. Samuels has the experience and if he gets his eye in, he can demolish any bowling attack. He will get that time to get settled and freedom to express himself at No 3.

 

Sarwan has been struggling to score at a good rate and ends up consuming too many balls which puts even more pressure on the batsmen to come after him. He bats at No 4 where he is required to rotate strike and keep the score ticking, but that’s where he has failed off late. Even in the World Cup he wasn’t able to rotate strike consistently let alone accelerating. It is a very tough situation for the West Indies team management as an experienced player is struggling. They have to take the tough call as to whether they want to persist with him or do without his experience.

 

The West Indies bowlers Devendra Bishoo and Ravi Rampaul in particular have been impressive, but they need others to support them. Anthony Martin was impressive in the first ODI and he needs to continue his good work to support Bishoo. However, if West Indies decide to play two spinners then the fast bowling duties completely fall upon Rampaul as Darren Sammy is not exactly a strike bowler. If Kemar Roach is included, their bowling would certainly get stronger.

 

West Indies have a few questions before them and they need to find the answers before it is too late. They need to make changes to their batting order as the current setup is not doing them any good. Their bowling is doing fine, but can do better. It is time to wake up and face the situation before it costs them another series.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)