Sunday, March 3, 2024

Good job, but WI not home yet


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IT?IS?TIME! West Indies and Australia are ready for Test cricket. While five One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals gave us great surprises, tremendous excitement, even euphoria, it is Test cricket, where slugging does not work, that really counts. Only the very strong, those with real, tough stamina, will survive!
“Fast is good; it may get you there quickly! Do not underrate slow; you will get there anyway; maybe!”
My mother reminded of this daily. Without much knowledge of cricket, Sylvia was right!  
Our appetites are now whetted for three Tests. Mindsets and preparations – mental and physical – must be realigned and retooled for longer games. What may have been thought for 20, 40, 50 or 100 overs must now take cranial space for five days.  
As England found out, to their chagrin, in last week’s opening Test versus Sri Lanka, Test cricket is long and hard. If you only trained for a 400-metre race, you will be unprepared for a 3 000 metre steeplechase and will falter badly at the longer escapade.
West Indies have done wonderfully well against Australia in games that lasted one day. Now it is left to be seen how much mental development and maturity has been gained over especially the last year, with Ottis Gibson as head coach and Darren Sammy as captain.  
Australia’s South African head coach, Mickey Arthur, prophetically suggested West Indies should not be underrated, as teams playing in their ‘backyard’ could even things out. He was correct.
Australia have Test personnel advantages, even if they are not fully aware of conditions. Having come face to face with some of West Indies’ offerings, they will certainly not be taking the home team lightly. They are probably shocked at the ODI series 2-2 and T20 I 1-1 results!
Veterans Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke present tremendous experience and production. Get one cheaply and others could still pummel West Indies to a pulp. It has been done before.    
While Australia struggled to manage the slowness of Arnos Vale’s pitches, they endured, diligently, as good professionals do, to bring themselves up to speed for games there.  
Having enjoyed the bounce and pace of Beausejour, St Lucia, they also looked forward to the renowned Kensington Oval, considered almost universally of having the best cricket-friendly pitch in the Caribbean. The curators at “The Mecca” have massive responsibilities to uphold.
Consistent bounce, good pace, sufficient movement and late-game spin, enabling batsmen to play strokes “through the line”, should allow for a tremendous first Test, even though, like most things for West Indies recently, it is no longer that bastion of our own successes anymore.
Former England captain Mike Gatting, who vacationed in Barbados weeks ago, former England national selector, David Graveney, and his immediate successor, Geoff Miller, told me, at a Professional Cricketers Association event in London last week, exactly the same thing about West Indies cricket.
Colin Croft is a former Guyana and West Indies fast bowler.


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