I referred in my last article (CN June 17) to the fact that no batsman likes to face up to pace and those who say they do have never really played against genuine fast bowling.
I also mentioned that Shannon Gabriel, the quick bowler from Trinidad, found a suitable pitch at the Queen’s Park Oval and took full advantage of it in the first Test match (June 6–10) against Sri Lanka. The wicket was fast and bouncy which has not been seen at the Oval for some time.
Although in the first innings Gabriel only picked up two wickets for 48 runs in 13 overs this was an ideal scene where a bowling spell did more damage than the figures show.
One noticed the Sri Lankan batsmen bobbing and weaving against the tall, strongly built fast bowler more so than his two colleagues Kemar Roach and Miguel Cummins, both of whom also bowled well. I was particularly surprised at the pace Cummins generated!
In the second innings, a similar scenario developed with the big man only collecting another couple of wickets to have match figures of four wickets for 100 runs. However, the seed was sown and the Lankan batsmen were wary and nervous about the more than six-foot Trini fast bowler who must look awesome to them coming from that height and built more like a wrestler than a cricketer!
Therefore, when the second Test rolled around in St Lucia June 14 the growing confidence of captain Jason Holder and his men plus the pace of Gabriel had the visitors very uncomfortable.
Gabriel showed during the first Test that he had more assurance probably stemming from the fact that his no-ball problem, from which he suffered regularly, seemed to be coming under control. As a result, in the
second Test, he was raring to go at the Lankans who had exposed their timidity to his speed.
Corey Collymore of Barbados, a previous West Indies fast bowler is the new bowling coach of the team and one would like to think that this would have had a positive effect on Gabriel; for he showed that he is certainly more of a Test bowler than he was before.
Given another fast wicket at the Darren Sammy Cricket Stadium was all that the West Indies could ask for with their fastest bowler looking ominous. Sri Lankan resolve was a problem they, the Lankans, had to address. Again, Gabriel came at them hard showing no respite and demolished the opposition ripping out 13 wickets for 121 runs—a magnificent performance!
Unfortunately the match was disrupted by the Sri Lankans refusing to take the field on the third day after their captain Dinesh Chandimal was accused of ball tampering by the umpires who changed the ball that was affected.
It was a show of poor sportsmanship by the captain and revealed a lack of responsibility by the management of the Sri Lankan team. I can’t help but wonder just what did they expect to achieve by their actions? Both the captain trying to alter the condition of the ball and the management allowing their team not to take the field! Nothing positive I can assure them.
They, at all times, must follow the instructions of the officials and make their protests in the right quarters afterwards. It threw a dim light on Sri Lanka as a cricket nation as it was not the first time they refused to take the field in a Test.
The previous time was against Australia at Melbourne when umpire Darrel Hair called Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing and their captain Ranatunga led his team off the field where they remained for half an hour before being coaxed to return.
Regrettably, this action not only put Test cricket in a bad light which it can ill afford, but the West Indies’ effort was derailed as they were on a high.
If the Lankans had won the first Test two things would not have happened: the tampering with the ball, and the idea of not taking the field. It was an immature and child-like display of pettiness in an international game.
Sri Lanka is worried of losing a series to the whipping boys of world cricket who are three places lower than them on the merit scale of world Test cricket.
Cricket West Indies officials had asked for faster pitches and they got their request in the first two Tests and the third one in Barbados is reported to be another one to benefit fast bowlers.
I write this before the start of the third Test (June 23–27), but I expect the WI team brimming with self- confidence to master the timid Sri Lankans (minus their captain as part of his punishment for his lapse in judgement) hence being able to move up the ladder of world cricket standings for Test matches.
Editor’s note: West Indies lost to Sri Lanka in the Third Test.