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Come on skipper, it was all because of you and Chanderpaul
Tony Becca, Contributing Editore
The West Indies tour of New Zealand is over, the Windies are now looking towards taking on England at home.
Regardless of what anyone wants to say - including captain Chris Gayle - remembering the results of the last four series between the two teams, when the Windies lost 3-1, 3-0, 4-0, and 3-0 in four-match contests, barring a miraculous turn-around, the once-mighty West Indies will be in for a rough time.
After losing all three one-day internationals (ODIs) in Pakistan, the West Indies went to New Zealand for a set of contests - two Test matches, two Twenty20 matches and five ODIs. When it was over, it was New Zealand by a 1-0 margin, after the Test series ended in a 0-0 tie, after the sides each won a Twenty20 match, and, with rain ruining two of the ODIs, New Zealand won two and the West Indies one.
Not a strong side
Remembering that New Zealand had won the previous three Test series and ODIs 2-0, 1-0, and 2-0, 5-0, 3-1, and 4-1, respectively, that, on the surface, was probably a good result.
However, this New Zealand team was not nearly as strong as those before, because some of their top players went off to the so-called 'rebel' Twenty20 Indian Cricket League and were not selected.
But for two defiant, back-to-the wall performances in the Test matches by Brendan Nash, who was nurtured in Australia, the West Indies, but for one fairy-tale innings in the Test series by pacer Jerome Taylor, a lovely spell by pacer Fidel Edwards in the Test series, and a sizzling partnership in the one-day contest by Ramnaresh Sarwan and Denesh Ramdin, were competitive simply because of Chris Gayle and Shiv-narine Chanderpaul.
In fact, to finish dead even with a team like New Zealand, a team which, although brilliant, as usual, in the field, was put into its place by a fading Australia (who were first easily beaten by India a few weeks before and then by South Africa), was disappointing.
Lest it be forgotten, apart from his wonderful 197 in the Test series and his two centuries in the one-day contest, including a brilliant, shot-filled 135, Gayle, probably the biggest hitter the game has ever produced, scored 305 runs at an average of 101.66 in three innings in the Test series and 260 runs at an average of 65 in five innings in the one-day internationals.
Chanderpaul, apart from batting undefeated to the end of the innings twice in the Test series, scored 202 runs at an average of 101 in three innings of the Test series, and 139 runs at an average of 69.50 in three innings of the one-day series.
With Nash averaging 54.00 in the Test series and a disappointing 14.00 in the one-day internationals, Sarwan finished with 6.66 and 44.00, Sewnarine Chattergoon with 17.00 and 12.66, Xavier Marshall with 14.66 and 15.50 and Shawn Findlay with 5.50 in the one-day internationals.
Then, Kieron Pollard with 6.50 in the one-day internationals, Ramdin with 5.66 and 20.00, and Carlton Baugh with 2.00 in the Twenty20.
As they were against the Pakistani bowlers a few weeks before, but for Gayle, Chanderpaul, and, to an extent, Sarwan, the West Indies batsmen were terrible against the New Zealand bowlers and hopeless against the wily and experienced left-arm spin bowler, Daniel Vettori.
And, but for Edwards' performance in the second Test and a couple of spells by pacer Lionel Baker in the one-day contests, the bowlers, bowling wide and short and to a defensive off-side field, were no better.
Apart from Edwards, who finished the Test series with an average of 22.36 and a strike rate of 36.90, there was nothing to cheer - not with Edwards finishing the one-day contest with an average of 47.50 and economy rate of 6.78. Daren Powell finishing the Test series with an average of 33.33.
Taylor finished the Test series with an average of 40.80, Sulieman Benn ended his one Test match with an average of 103.00, Nikita Miller finished the one-day contest with an economy rate of 6.20 and an average of 46.50, Kieron Pollard finished the one-day contest with an economy rate of 5.50 and an average of 66.00, and captain Gayle himself, after a good start in the Test series, ended with an economy rate of 9.06 and an average of 68.00 in the one-day series.
According to Gayle, the West Indies gained a lot from the tour, and with the likes of Chattergoon averaging 18.14, 32.76, and 24.66 in his Test, first-class and one-day career, with Marshall averaging 22.09, 26.37, and 17.85, Nash 54.00, 31.80, 26.00, Ramdin 20.60, 25.58, and 19.80, Baugh 19.60, 34.09, and 14.86, with Findlay and Pollard averaging 15.61 and 20.81, 34.33 and 6.71 in first-class and one-day cricket, respectively, may be not much more was expected of them.
Settle for mediocrity
"It was a long tour, and credit must go to the guys for the way we played," said the West Indies captain.
Well, even if we must settle for mediocrity, even if a West Indies batting order that saw Marshall batting at number two, Findlay at number five, Ramdin at number six and Pollard at number seven was not embarrassing, it certainly was not a long tour.
We must also remember that seven of New Zealand's batsmen averaged more than 20 in the Test series against only three from the West Indies.
Five of New Zealand's bowlers averaged in the 20s in the one-day series with two boasting economical rates below four runs an over against none by the West Indies.
And but for Taylor, as a batsman, Edwards in one innings, Nash in the Test series, and a flicker from Sarwan in the one-days, it was all Gayle and Chanderpaul - one who made his West Indies debut in 2000 and one who did so six years earlier.
The regional four-day tournament got under way two Fridays ago, and, but for Devon Smith, a batsman with a Test average of 24.30 and a one-day average of 23.27, who scored 212, none of the batsmen did anything to catch the eye of the selectors. The bowlers, the spin bowlers, the right-arm leg-spin bowlers, were impressive.
I do not know what the pitches were like, and although the likes of Daren Ganga and Devon Smith must be better than some of those who were in New Zealand, I also know the quality of most of the batsmen is not too high.
What I do know, however, is this: In three matches, 90 wickets fell, and 61 of them fell to spin bowlers; there were four five-wicket hauls, four of them to spin bowlers, and three of them to right-arm leg-spin bowlers. One of the right-arm leg-spinners, Gavin Wallace, bowls googlies, he bowls quicker than slow, he bowls a good length and a good line, and although there is not one batsman of class in the Leeward Islands line-up, I also know that he mesmerised the batsmen and cut them down with the googly while taking three wickets for 53 runs off 27 overs and eight for 20 off 10 for a match haul of 11 for 73 off 37 overs.
In fact, according to the reports coming out of St Kitts, one of Wallace's victims was leg before wicket when, probably expecting the ball to spin away or to go straight ahead, he padded up and failed to play at a well-pitched delivery which spun back into him.
Time to develop
I have always admired the Australian selectors for waiting, generally, until their players have been fully and properly developed before throwing them in at the deep end. Despite that, for demonstrating their faith in Shane Warne, and in so doing groomed him into becoming arguably the greatest spin bowler of all time.
I have often times wondered what Dave Mohammed would have become had the West Indies selectors given him the opportunity to develop his skill, to grow in confidence. I have always wondered what one like Andr? Dwyer would have become had the Jamaica selectors given him the opportunity to develop his skills, to grow in confidence.
Now, I hope and pray that Wallace will continue to perform and to develop, and while it may be too early, that one day, in the not-too-distant future, the West Indies selectors will take off the blinkers and give someone like Wallace (a university graduate) a chance, a real chance, to make the best of his gift.