There was a time when the advent of the West Indies team was eagerly anticipated as well as feared by the ardent cricket fans as well as the players themselves. However, that was during the 70s to 90s when the Caribbeans had an all-conquering outfit that was capable of steam-rolling any opposition. Their cricket was a sight to behold – a rare combination of carefree attitude towards life and relentless pursuit of excellence exemplified by their exceptional achievements and fame all over the world.
These days, the West Indies team does not carry the same aura; in fact, many describe it as a shadow of the past. It has now been reduced to a gap-filler in tournament schedules or for warm-up matches for new teams. The team that is coming to India for a two-test series, followed by a three-match one day series, should serve to provide India a confidence-boost before it goes to South Africa, provided it finally goes there.
So let’s start our analysis of the team.
Batting: This has been the Windies’ strength of late, helping them win the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in 2012. The main name for the Caribbeans in the tests would be one Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whose best performances have come against India, the land of his ancestors. He will be well supported by Chris Gayle, one of the most destructive openers around, and Marlon Samuels, who has rediscovered himself in the last couple of years and is now one of the leading run-scorers in the team.
Also in the line-up are Darren Bravo, Kirk Edwards and Kieran Powell. All these young batsmen are promising and capable of playing well, but they need to convert their potential into runs so that the team stands a good chance of competing in the series against the wily Indian spinners.
All-rounders and wicket keepers: The team has just two all-rounders: Darren Sammy and Narsingh Deonarine. Sammy is the leader of the team and a lot will depend on him as a first-change seamer and a lower-order batsman who can both use the long handle or be a dogged defender if need arises. Deonarine is a batting all-rounder who can bowl off-spin. However, I do not think that he will get a look-in in any of the test matches unless one of the batsmen is injured. It is in this context that I find Dwayne Bravo’s exclusion rather baffling. He could easily have batted at 6 and bowled a certain number of overs. I don’t really think that the present West Indies team is in a position to leave out a player of his quality.
There are two wicket keepers in the team: Denesh Ramdin, the regular, who is more likely to feature in the matches, and Chadwick Walton, who has been recalled to the team on the back of some good performances.
Bowling: West Indies have three fast bowlers in the team. Kemar Roach and Tino Best are fairly quick and capable of causing some consternation for Indian batters early on. Sheldon Cotterrell, the left-armer from Jamaica, is also decidedly nippy and is pretty good with his line and length. But once again I do not see him getting a game in the series. I think the West Indies would have been better served with Ravi Rampaul and Jason Holder in the team, but I guess they are being viewed as limited-overs specialists, which is a shame if you ask me, because both bowlers have the capability of being successful in tests as well.
The two spinners in the team are Veersammy Permaul, a left-armer, and Shane Shillingford, an offie. They are decent bowlers, but it is really hard to imagine them run through an Indian line up that plays spin bowling really well. I think Sunil Narine should have been chosen, but once again the feeling is that he is being seen as more of a bowler who is better off in the limited-overs matches. Narine would have been a good bet with his variety and experience of Indian conditions.