Saturday, April 20, 2024

Come rain or shine


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Passion. pride and energy are the watchwords of West Indies captain Darren Sammy.
Well, watch out for the West Indies if the weather allows cricket in the fourth Digicel One-Day International at Kensington Oval today!
In recent times, the Windies usually play their best cricket in dead rubber matches when the series is already decided and they are trying to avoid a whitewash.
This is a similar situation as Pakistan have already clinched the five-match series with an unsurpassable 3-0 lead and are poised for a clean sweep.
It has been raining steadily for the past two days with flooding in some areas of the country yesterday, causing the postponement of the popular Reggae on the Hill, an event which ironically had led to the deferment of this match until today. The two events may now still clash, weather permitting, resulting in a half-filled Kensington.
This is because once there is prolonged sunshine, cricket, even if the overs are reduced, will be possible because of the excellent drainage at The Mecca.
In terms of team news, the West Indies selectors have made a U-turn by belatedly picking the experienced Ramnaresh Sarwan (5 400 runs in 166 ODIs at an average of 43.20), to bolster a fragile batting line-up, which has managed inadequate totals of 221, 220 and 171.
The inclusion of Sarwan, whose ODI average is bettered by only Sir Vivian Richards (47.00) and Gordon Greenidge (45.03) on the all-time West Indian list, provides the team a batsman with a proven record, who is capable of negotiating Pakistan’s spin trio of captain Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Mohammed Hafeez.
But the other middle order batsmen, who have been making lotto number scores must step up to the plate, especially Marlon Samuels, who has had a disappointing return to international cricket with scores of two, 29 and 18 at snail’s pace.
All-rounder Dwayne Bravo, who has gifted his wicket to catches in the deep, like if he was already playing T20 cricket in the Indian Premier League, also needs to show more responsibility.
His returns of 14, 18 and 11, are simply unsatisfactory.  
The dropping of an out-of-sorts Devon Smith will mean there will be a new partner for Lendl Simmons, who has played with authority while reeling off half-centuries in the last two ODIs. He must now carry on for a maiden ODI ton.
Kirk Edwards, an orthodox batsman, more suited to the longer format, has struggled with 50 runs in his three knocks but is likely to join Simmons  at the top while Darren Bravo, who has shown flashes of brilliance but also needs to aim for a century, remains at No.3.
Simmons was surprisingly asked to double as wicketkeeper when Carlton Baugh was omitted in the last game. But this ploy backfired with his vital mis-stumping of Pakistan’s topscorer Misbah-ul-Haq, when he was just 20 out of his match-winning unbeaten 69.
Surely Baugh, good enough to record 11 first-class centuries, more than all the batsmen in this squad apart from Sarwan, should not be sacrificed, especially when specialist batsmen are failing and bowlers are not taking wickets.
In terms of coming up with the right balance, the West Indies’ selectors must seriously look at the position of Sammy as captain.
Since he is untouchable as captain and will be until the end of the India series which follows, whether he performs with bat or ball, the promising Andre Russell would be the logical omission to accommodate Baugh’s return to boost the batting. Antiguan leg-spinner Anthony Martin may be more suited for Providence pitch in Thursday’s final match in Guyana.
Even so, Russell’s combined nine overs in his two ODIs yielded 59 runs without success.
Sammy’s ODI bowling stats of 39 wickets in 56 ODIs at an average of 44.58 and economy rate of 4.54 runs an over, do not set the world on fire.
But he must still see himself as one of the five main bowlers, instead of confining himself to two overs as sixth bowler like he did last Thursday.
Pacer Ravi Rampaul, as was the case when he seized his late chance in the World Cup with a career-best five for 51 against India, rocked Pakistan with four for 32.
Instead of such one-off displays, he must aim for more consistency in trying to improve his overall record of 60 wickets in 56 ODIs at an average of 30.91 and an economy rate of 5:04.
After his generally good showing in the World Cup, the pace and penetration of fast-bowling spearhead Kemar Roach, has been sadly lacking in this series as he has failed to take a wicket, but rookie leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo continues to impress against the inexperienced Pakistan batting line-up.
But in order for the West Indies to get a consolation victory, an all-round bowling effort is required and they must find a way to dismiss the resolute Misbah.
Pakistan, who have fielded an unchanged team in all three matches, may be inclined to play a few of their reserve players such as Taufeeq Umar and Tanvir Ahmed.


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