Contrary to obtuse thoughts, everything does start at the beginning. That debilitating three-day loss by West Indies in Test No 1 to Australia in Dominica last Friday was prescribed by the final WI XI selected before a ball was bowled. Despite spirited batting from debutant Shane Dowrich and Marlon Samuels in WI’s 2nd innings, one particular selection made WI incapable of winning No 1.
Remembering that “common sense is not always common”, why did WI selectors Clive Lloyd, Courtney Walsh, Eldine Baptiste and Courtney Browne pick a third fast bowler, Shannon Gabriel, instead of what was needed on that well-known Warner Park spinner-friendly pitch, a second full-fledged spinner in left-arm orthodox Veerasammy Permaul?
Playing to your strength
Could it have been that Lloyd; 110 Tests; who captained a world-beating team with great fast bowlers, or Walsh; 132 Tests, one of those greats, or Baptiste; 10 Tests; another faster bowler under Lloyd’s captaincy, or Browne; 20 Tests; who was poor to spin anyway as a wicket-keeper, still do not know, appreciate or understand what is meant by “using horses for courses”?
Even with fast bowling legacies, WI present selectors should have known the history of spin at Windsor Park. That blinkered omission of Permaul caused WI to lose Test No 1. WI’s present faster bowlers Gabriel, Jason Holder and Jerome Taylor do not compare favorably to Aussie fast-men Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
Everything starts at the beginning, so due to four decades of involvement in several aspects of aviation, I mostly refer to that industry for examples for real life and sports too.
Experience v common sense
Nineteen years ago; May 1996; a commercial flight, ValuJet Flight 592, a Mc Donnell-Douglas DC-9, burned then crashed into the Florida Everglades relatively close to Miami International Airport, ten minutes after take-off, killing all 110 persons aboard. That accident could easily have been avoided too, but that flight was doomed even before it left the parking gate.
There was nothing that the two experienced cockpit crew, with a combined nearly 21,000 flying hours between them, could have done to save themselves and passengers, as unknown to them, the ground handlers had packed illegal-to-carry hazardous materials into baggage holds. Once airborne, the ‘Hazmat’ ignited. That was that!
Last week, Windsor Park was hosting only its fourth Test overall, having hosted India in 2011, Australia in 2012 and Zimbabwe in 2013. Dominica’s first ever Test was drawn, but the latter two were won by deadly spin bowling from Australia and WI.
Spin works on right pitch
In 2012, with Shiv Chanderpaul aboard—he made two half centuries—Australia beat WI by seventy-five runs, courtesy of left-arm spinner and captain Michael Clarke’s second innings 5 for 86, coupled with off-spinner Nathan Lyons’ match figures 7-156. Permaul is a much better spinner than Clarke!
Dominican WI off-spinner Shane Shillingford had excellent match-figures then too; 81.5-16-219-10; while WI’s part-time off-spinner Narsingh Deonarine also had three wickets. So, between Lyons, Clarke, Deonarine, Shillingford and David Warner, who had 1-21 with occasional leg-breaks, spin bowling accounted for 26 of 40 wickets taken in that game!
When WI beat Zimbabwe in 2013 by an innings and sixty-five runs, Shillingford had even more impressive match-figures with his off-breaks and ‘doosras’; 36.5-8-93-10. Marlon Samuels’ off-breaks contributed well too; match-figures 18.2-3-50-6. Further, Zimbabwe’s off-spinner Prosper Utseya and right-arm leg-spinner Graeme Cremer, ala Davendra Bishoo, took five of eight WI wickets to fall in that game.
So, in the last Test at Windsor Park before last week, twenty-one of twenty-eight wickets to fall were taken by spin bowling!
Pacer Gabriel v spinner Permaul
How could present WI’s selectors not know these facts or did they have yet another agenda? Were Lloyd and Company over-ridden by captain Denesh Ramdin and coach Philip Simmons, both of T&T, in selecting T&T native Gabriel instead of Permaul, who, incidentally, was WICB’s 2015 four-day First-Class competition’s leading wicket-taker with 69 wickets?
Does WI’s selection committee have something else against Permaul, as he was also overlooked in recent World Cup 2015, for Nakita Miller, and was only belatedly called up against England too? Permaul’s omission was costly to WI, especially when the only front-line spinner, Bishoo, bowled beautifully for 6-80 from 33 tantalizing but tiring overs.
Permaul also bats infinitely better than Gabriel. What is going on here? Bishoo needed Permaul’s partnership when Australia were depleted to 178-8 in 1st innings, after WI had made a paltry 148. That small lead was extended to 170 runs by Adam Voges’ tremendous initial Test innings; 130 not out, with the help of tail-enders!
WI batting line-up before Test No 1 v Australia has only two batsmen, Darren Bravo; 43.18; and Jermaine Blackwood; 50.36; with batting averages better than 40 runs per innings, so WI could not have hoped to frighten Australia with batting power. Therefore, the only way WI could have won Test No. 1 would have been to “bowl them out”; dismiss Australia twice, but WI did not have the bowling personnel to accomplish such!
Maybe WICB President Dave Cameron will address these concerns in his next “Town-Hall” meeting in Guyana soon, but much of this makes no sense at all, at least not to me.