The tests against West Indies and Bangladesh should have brought much relief for West Indian batsmen, but instead, they have failed to put up a consistent performance. The Windies top order has been a concern for a long time, a look at the figures tells the story.
It was last league match of World Cup 2007 when one of the greatest batsman Brian Charles Lara bid adieu. Lara was a few days short of his 38th birthday, and he was exhausted carrying the burden of expectations of fans for almost a decade. While many talented batsmen were waiting in the wings but experts were of the view that West Indies would be facing tough days ahead.
As West Indies face Bangladesh eleven summers later, West Indies in spite of having a decent home season cannot be confident that they have a top order which can stand in tough conditions. The return of 36-year-old Devon Smith having a meagre average of 24 after 40 tests clearly set how drastically the standards have fallen.
While Smith is a proven player at domestic level but he has had enough chances, and he has failed to show that he belongs to the international level. There is a long list of failures at the top of the order. Darren Ganga, Adrian Barath, Lendon Jhonson, Xavier Marshall, Rajendra Chandrika, S.Chattergon, Kyle Hope or A.Fudadin are few names West Indies have tried and tested for the opening pair, but apart from Chris Gayle and Kraig Brathwaite none have justified the selection.
Number three and four are crucial for any team and generally the best batsmen of the team bat here. It was this position where players like Brian Lara, Sir Vivian Richards have batted. Today they have Kieran Powell averaging 28.22 and Shai Hope with 31.22 batting at the most crucial position of the team. While both of them are talented but the consistency has eluded them so far. The shot selection and the ability to read match situation is something which has frustrated the fans. Ramnaresh Sarwan and Darren Bravo are the only two batsmen who have justified batting at these, but both of them have been discarded from a long time.
The most significant loss for the West Indies have been at no.5, their most prolific batsman of the decade Shivnarine Chanderpaul who was dropped in 2015 is yet to be replaced. Roston Chase has shown immense potential and along with Kraigg Brathwaite is the only batsman to have established a reputation for himself. No. 6 has also been a problem for the West Indies for a long time. Players like Jermaine Blackwood, Narsingh Deonarine, Brendon Nash have been tried here only with moderate success, all three average between 30-35, A spot where some of the prominent names like Clive Lyod, Sir Garry Sobers, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul have played have failed to find a decent player in over a decade.
The problem for Cricket West Indies (WI) are on many scales; the crowd have already been dwindling in test matches, there is the crunch of finance, famous players preferring for T-20 cricket and then there is player-board friction. However as West Indies have started to live along with these problems, the batting is something they need to work out. While there not many options Devon Smith was the topper in run charts in 2017-18 first class tournament but have failed to utilise the chance given to him. Dinesh Ramdin who was second. The other toppers were Shayne Moseley (overall average 34), Chanderpaul Hemraj (27), Shamrah Brooks (34). The average of others also does not invoke much confidence. None of them has the domestic career average of even 40.
The question is how have things gone so bad for West Indies batting, a batting line-up always known for its flair. The gravity of the situation is such that none of the batsmen, who started their career after Lara’s retirement has an average of 40 in test match cricket (apart from Darren Bravo). 11 years is a long time and having failed to find an exceptional batting talent says a lot about the West Indies domestic structure and specifies why West Indies lies at the bottom of the table.
So what the West Indies needs to do? First and foremost important is to make better goodwill for itself, second making players realise that West Indies cricket is their priority and most importantly start working to bring more people to test match cricket especially the new generation, reaching out to schools to encourage bright players to adopt cricket. Including more West Indian players in the coaching programme especially at the grass root level. Then only the West Indies can hope to get more players like Sobers, Richards, Kanhais, Kalicharan, Lara and Chanderpaul.