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T&T Red Force backfires

By Bryan Davis Former West Indies Test cricketer

A pathetic display of batsmanship by Trinidad & Tobago’s Red Force (RF) cricketers against Barbados in the fifth round of matches in the Cricket West Indies Regional Four Day Championship two weeks ago (February 13–16) was mind-numbing to say the least.

After being bundled out for 175 in the first innings, the hapless visitors to Kensington Oval, struggled to 77 in the second! To review this game is interesting plus the pitiful explanations given for the non-performance!

Batting first, the Barbadians were exceedingly shaky at 46 for 6 wickets, at which stage the RF must have been feeling very good about themselves. However, the fighting Pride batsmen, with their backs to the wall, battled back to reach 209.  According to manager of the T&T team David Furlonge, some vital catches were dropped at this time to allow the Bajans to squeeze their innings pass 200. He reckons they would have capitulated for 120 if RF held on to those catches.

Nevertheless, in RF’s turn at the crease, after a fairly sound start and the second wicket falling at 71, three batsmen were dismissed at 88 causing a whimpering reply of 175. Furlonge said, “It was a two-paced wicket, a difficult wicket to bat on…”

In their second innings the Pride sailed along to 342 runs for 5 wickets declared. It seems to me that they didn’t have a problem batting on the two-paced wicket! The manager did mention that the Force dropped “about eight catches in the match, and five in this inning,” so that might have accounted for the positive score, dropped catches! It seems as if the coach, Mervyn Dillon, has a lot of work to do!

That left the RF cricketers to chase 377 to win in a day and a bit. Soon enough, they were in dire straits at 48 for 4 at the close of play; and any discerning fan of the game would know, at this stage, it was all over bar the shouting. There was absolutely no resolve left in the Force to carry the fight to the Bajans. Only the promising but still very much inexperienced Joshua Da Silva, Akeal Hosein and Uthman Muhammad who showed some spunk in the first knock plus Yannic Cariah.

According to Furlonge, “We have to do some work on our fielding and get some consistency with our bowling.”  But the side made 77 runs, all out!  In this game therefore, the RF batted, bowled and fielded poorly.

Red Force needs to practise

The batting was atrocious! It revealed neither fighting spirit nor skill. Two-paced wickets and many of the various descriptions of pitches one may encounter, fast, slow, turning, seaming etc, this is the main focus of a cricket contest, hence the reason for developing the disciplines of bowling, batting and fielding, to deal with whatever is confronted. This is how one team proves itself better than its opponent. Then we had to listen to the excuses by the manager: “We had an easy-paced wicket the first couple of games here” (in Trinidad)…. “Then we went to Guyana on a wicket that wasn’t the best.  From the first wicket it took a lot of turn” (but a rookie fast-medium bowler Niall Smith got 5 for 12!).

Next Dominica, where rain affected the game. Then the team were off to Barbados. Furlonge continued, “With a grassy wicket, with the ball seaming around, we didn’t adapt properly to the wicket.”

And the solution?  Furlonge says “It’s a matter of getting back to work. We can’t let the Carnival affect us or our preparations.  We are professionals, we will have some time off (to rest) but we will have some practise this week.” A rest? They need work!

I read no interviews with Dillon. As the coach I would love to hear his explanations, but he seems to have left it to the manager.

Firstly, the team seems to be woefully lacking in practice to deal with various situations that could be encountered in any game.

The batting must be attuned in order to handle any type of pitch on any given day. The only way to achieve this is by constant and regular practice. Lots of practice builds concentration and confidence, improves skill and makes a batsman tough. Ask Virat Kohli or any highly successful international batsman. And the same goes for bowling and fielding, both catching and groundwork.

They should have used the same Kensington Oval the day they were humiliated, to have a long practice session.

On to the Leeward Islands Hurricanes (February 27–March 1) which RF beat in their second game.  Five changes were made which shows some concern by selectors. However, Imran Khan is a fundamental inclusion after resurgence from his injury.

The revelation of Denesh Ramdin proves that there has been some bitterness in the team which would have helped to destroy its function. As someone who has played for T&T since 2005 it is disappointing that he is so immature. He does not even seem to understand that he was the disturbing influence in the dressing-room!