WI have what it takes


THE?PLOT?has to thicken if the West Indies are to do well against Australia in the Digicel Test cricket series.
Our boys did well and perhaps exceeded expectations in the shorter versions of the game against much more highly rated opponents, but they cannot become complacent and believe they have won the battle.
In fact, the war has just begun. What the West Indies must do is use the momentum gained in drawn series in the 50 overs and T20s to stake even stronger claims in the more testing form of the game.
While the T20s in particular might be regarded as an entertainment spectacle, the West Indies can take heart from the fact that they looked very competitive against the Aussies and should be approaching the Tests with the same zest and self-belief.
They must wear the Obama mantra on their sleeves: Yes, we can.
On reflection, they can because they should have definitely won the One-Day series by a convincing margin but they let the rattled tourists off the hook when they had opportunities to drive nails in their coffin and bury them.
This is where killer instinct will be required in the Tests. Let us agree that tactical approaches will be different for both sides in the Tests but mental aptitude can prove to be the common factor that will contribute to the outcome of matches.
The fear factor was a non-factor for the West Indies in the dress rehearsals for the Tests and even though the composition of the Australians’ line-up will be different in both batting and bowling, I believe we will have the ammunition to stand up and be counted, with home advantage playing a vital role.
Most importantly they must stay united behind their captain Darren Sammy. Unity is strength and I was impressed with how the team worked willingly and diligently for Sammy, giving the impression that the dressing room was speaking with one voice.
The challenge
Sammy has faced since becoming captain is that his place in the team has always been questioned on the grounds of his performance. So, in reality he has to be an inspirational leader who must lift his troops by example with both bat and ball to gain acceptance and get the critics off his back.
His ball-beating heroics in the final One Day International in his native St Lucia bore that hallmark and his superb captaincy in the second T20 at Kensington Oval was very instrumental in the West Indies’ winning the game and levelling the series. He won some friends who may have been some of his worst critics previously.
The team had made some incremental gains on last year’s Asian tour and I duly expect that growth to be sustained against the Australians and in other series against England and New Zealand. I will not divert from that position once they continue to show the discipline coach Ottis Gibson has been trying to instil in the ranks since his appointment two years ago.
Team selection, as always, will be crucial in the quest to topple opponents who are themselves in a state of transition. Their dismissal of India in a recent home series proved, though, that they can still be ruthless if allowed to dictate the terms of a game.
I believe the talismanic Dwayne Smith has a compelling case for a return to the Test team, and playing in front of his home crowd is the place to suitably reward him for a marked improvement in his overall game, particularly his batting.
Let’s face it. If Dwayne Bravo was available, he would have been a surety to start. His absence should make it a straight swap and a formality for Smith, who played an inspired knock in the final T20.
Under normal circumstances, Tino Best, based on his performance in the regional competition, would be a certainty to play at the Oval in conditions that are likely to favour bowlers of his pace and hostility. However, the likes of Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and Kemar Roach will start ahead of him with Sammy and presumably Smith providing the rest of the firepower.
It is a pity that the Indian Premier League will rob mystery spinner Sunil Narine of a chance to mesmerize the opposition that hasn’t mastered him, albeit that captain Michael Clarke and the evergreen Ricky Ponting were not here to be exposed to his guile. I don’t think the Aussies will be mourning his loss like us.
This scenario brings into focus the downside of the myriad lucrative T20 tournaments because they force cricketers to choose either being nationalistic and committed to their countries or making loads of money in quick time.
The only solution would be for an organization like the West Indies Cricket Board to compensate players who would be lured to the T20 tournaments in a manner that would eliminate having to choose between two masters.
I imagine they would claim they do not have the resources to do such and the other real perspective is that some players in an effort to secure their financial future beyond their cricketing days would not want to give up such tangible returns anyhow.
Until the game’s governing body devises a method to regulate these tournaments in a way that creates minimum dislocation, it will remain an issue that could see many more stars call time on their Test careers to capitalize on their worth and marketability in cricket’s biggest drawing card at the moment.
• Andi Thornhill is an award-winning freelance sports journalist.


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