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February 13, 2020
Understanding the sacred mysteries
February 13, 2020

A timely Sri Lankan examination

The coming tour of Sri Lanka (SL) is a vital visit for West Indies’ (WI) cricketers. The series consists of three One-Day-Internationals (ODI) on February 22, 26 and March 1. There are ODI warm-up games February 17 and 20. The ODIs will be followed by two T20s on March 4 and 6.

It is a contest that will give them a good idea of exactly where they stand in the world ratings. The importance of this rating is realised when the World Cup (WC) comes around in 2023.

One must recall that for the 2019 WC in England, WI had to play in the qualifiers against the lesser lights of the cricketing nations, yet barely scraped in, and were beaten by Afghanistan in the final. Luckily, in that tournament, two teams qualified. The first eight in the world rankings were automatically chosen for the finals.

Also, the T20 WC in Australia is later this year, October 18–November 15; hence SL would be a tournament that could be used as a yardstick to measure our consistency, bearing in mind that we lost to Afghanistan 2-1 & India 2-1 then drew with Ireland 1-1, in the last three months.

The main reason that SL would be a benchmark for WI’s performances, is because they are just above the Caribbean side in the world standings, in both ODI’s and T20s.

We cannot afford to slip here as the slowly building team-confidence can dissipate if we falter. On the other hand, the cricket has improved under captain Kieron Pollard and in the 50-over ODIs our record is improving.

Afghanistan went under 3-nil and so did Ireland although India whipped us by a 2-1 margin. India is a powerhouse in world cricket so to even take one game against them out of three is high praise indeed! And, specifically, from where we had come in the past six months after such a poor showing in the WC in England last year.

Changes coming after ODIs

Let’s have a look at the team that was chosen for the SL tour. The batting appears quite thin, particularly with two of the better batsmen Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer being left out for fitness-related charges. The two productive scorers in the past four months were dropped for failing to pass a new minimum standard fitness test.

Hetmyer was fit enough to score a century as recently as  December 15 while Lewis topped the batting averages opening the batting against Ireland last month!

So, there’s a heavier burden on skipper Pollard.

Then there’s the returning Darren Bravo who is brilliant enough ability-wise, but it is anyone’s guess as to how he will adjust to International cricket once more, as his outing at the WC in England last year was dismal.

Shai Hope gives me confidence in the opening berth, but his likely opening partner is Brandon King who has been a failure thus far on the international scene. King is fortunate to be in the team for, although a skilful player with a wide range of strokes, he does not exude the confidence required at this level of the game. Not yet, anyway.

Nicholas Pooran and Roston Chase have both been successful in the 50-over game and the former in both formats.

Sunil Ambris is an uncertain performer and might be consistent if some of his glaring faults could be expunged. Maybe he’s been working on them in the last few months. I wish him luck but he’s not dependable.

I wouldn’t put much value on the batting ability of the all-rounders and would classify them mainly as bowling all-rounders. Jason Holder would be the best of them followed by Keemo Paul, Romario Shepherd and Fabian Allen.

Allen is a fine cricketer whose fielding is superb. His batting and bowling are natural attributes, still, they require much more concentration which could be developed through long hours at practice.

I don’t know quite where to categorise Rovman Powell. He has performed adequately in both disciplines of batting and bowling and may be able to fit in as an all-rounder, depending on how the team is balanced.

The bowlers are Sheldon Cottrell, Alzarri Joseph and the leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr.

Cottrell needs to work on his accuracy as it affects his consistency. Joseph must control his over-use of the short ball if he wants to be more dependable. Walsh is very promising, not only as a leg-spinner, but also as an all-round cricketer.

It has been reported that there will be some changes after the three ODIs for the two T20s. It will be interesting to see whether the two batsmen, Lewis and Hetmyer, pass the fitness test to be included in the team.

It is important that they are available because the team is short of positive batsmanship. The inclusion of Khary Pierre is necessary as the planning continues for the WC T20