Pace Rising & West Indian Trials

14 06 2010

Steyn & Morkel

Most commentators looking at the world of test cricket will agree that one of the factors contributing to the increase in batting averages and aggregate runs over the past decade is the current dearth of fast bowling talent around the world. Any signs that the fast bowling talent wheel is turning once more the other way is welcomed. Yet you have to feel sorry for the side that are welcoming this swing of the pendulum; especially when this side is the West Indies.

To be entirely fair this is a little glib, the world, after all, has been aware of Dale Steyn for two or three years now and he has hardly suddenly been a revelation in this game. With over 200 wickets in 39 test matches at an average of 23 per wicket he has already been hailed as the worlds premier fast bowler. What he does have now though is a partner who, over the past 6-12 months, has come through and looks just as dangerous in his own right. Morne Morkel has made the jump from gangly bowler of liquorice allsorts, as liable to go for runs as to take 3 wickets, to fully fledged world class pace man.

Watching these two run in at the West Indies batting line up, which is shaky at the best of times, was not an enjoyable thing. Yes it was proper test cricket, particularly when Chris Gayle was batting in the second innings and therefore enjoyable, yet several of the Caribbean’s finest appeared to be walking wickets. It was almost a relief when Travis Dowlin and Brendan Nash were dismissed as they looked to be having such a torrid time they seemed to be in shock.

The three players who have the proven ability at the top level, Gayle, Chanderpaul and Bravo all hung around for a bit (Gayle with typical bravado) at some point of the match but it was never going to be enough. Chanderpaul, truth be told since his extraordinary run of scores back in 2008, has struggled of late and has seen his average drop below 50. Perhaps in another situation or during a happier time of West Indies cricket, Chanderpaul may have retired by now to be recognised as an exceptional servant to cricket in the region. In the current team, and with Sarwan out for the time being, they need him; even when he is so clearly not in form.

Listening to Ian Bishop and Tony Cozier commentate during the game you realise just how endangered West Indian cricket is at the moment. They indulged in a long discussion about what it means to be West Indian and a cricketer in the modern Caribbean world and the upshot was that it doesn’t mean nearly as much as it used to. With this identity disappearing, aided no doubt by the poor performance of the West Indies over the past 15 years, it is more crucial than ever that they start winning again. Everyone loves a winning team but, with no role models to inspire up and coming cricketers plus the dangers of the path Kieron Pollard for one is following, it becomes more unlikely as time goes on for the quality of player needed to be developed.

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