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South Africa Vs West Indies – Are West Indies Selectors Making Way for a Possible Brian Lara Return?
The second cricket test match between West Indies and South Africa, which South Africa has accepted as compulsory and arranged the series is an interesting case study of cricket chess – if there is such a game. The West Indies won the first test in convincing fashion and looked very much like the victorious West Indies of the past. What followed is not good cricket, but something else.
In the first test, under their new captain Chris Gayle, they attacked from the opening ball and defeated South Africa in both innings with convincing batting and hostile and accurate bowling. There were minor falls on both sides. Good game all around.
The first surprise in the second test was the omission of Darren Sammy, one of the West Indies’ most promising bowlers. He is young, strong, and talented with the bat – very close to being designated as an allrounder. In his place they put Rawl Lewis, a questionable spin bowler with one of the worst test records. The Caribbean’s current international test spinner is Omari Banks. He never lost his trial place. Up until the time of his only injury, he had performed exceptionally well with bat and ball. If West Indies really needed a spinner, they could have called on their proven test match winner Omari Banks.
This is what Rob Smyth, Cricinfo Columnist wrote on the Cricinfo website in February 2006 about Lewis. “Legspinner Rawl Lewis had an unremarkable entry into Test cricket. In his three Tests for the West Indies, he bowled 97.3 overs. Of those 585 balls, only one got him a wicket, that of South African wicketkeeper Mark Boucher , caught by Brian Lara in Johannesburg in 1998-99. That single shot has cost Lewis 318 runs. For a time he captained the Windward Islands in the Red Stripe Bowl but instead of developing as a player as he got older, his form fell away. in history as one of the most ineffective bowlers in Test history until he got a second chance when he was selected for the tour of New Zealand in 2006. He came into contention on the basis of decent performances at domestic level. first class season he took 24 wickets at 17.54 and in the season before that he took 32 wickets at 26.43.”
On the other hand, Darren Sammy, the 24 year old St Lucian player had played two tests. In his first test in England last year, he bowled 17 overs, 7 of which were maidens; he conceded 32 runs and bagged one wicket. He had the best bowling average (1.80) of all West Indian bowlers. Darren Sammy played in the victorious first test in South Africa. In the second test, the wicket favored seam bowling. As a rule, cricket teams do not change winning combinations. In the first test, Sammy bowled 4 overs in the first innings, two of which were maidens, and conceded 6 runs. With the bat he made 38 before being run out. In the second innings he was LBW for 6 runs. In the second innings, his 7 overs cost him 29 runs; however he claimed one wicket when it mattered. His side won the test.
I have my own opinion on the politics behind Darren Sammy’s ban. However, one has to wonder: except in Antigua, Barbados and all the smaller new locations, cricket attendance has declined in the Caribbean. The demise of cricket means a decline in status for everyone associated with the game: selectors, cricketers and officials. In a media starved environment, that’s not good.
Suddenly, news of former batting star Brian Lara rejoining Trinidad’s regional competition is piercing the Caribbean and international news media. Everyone knows that to be eligible for test selection for the Caribbean team, the former must play for a regional test side. Next, one has to top the category in which one wants to be selected. As of late, all the top West Indies batsmen are performing very well, except opener Darren Ganga, a questionable catcher. In today’s game, you have to be a specialist catcher to be consistent among the runs in an opening position. Although Nevis showcased two promising youngsters in Kiernon Powell and Tonito Willet during last year’s Stanford20/20 Cricket tournament, instead of blooding them for hosting the Caribbean World Cup last year, sportswriters and regional selectors pretended not to have seen them .
Since they continued with the suspect Ganga in the opening position, this is the problem. Ganga’s career was pushed with Lara’s blessing when she was captain. Lara doesn’t like to open up. He is not only a nervous starter, but has difficulty with the new ball in his nervous moments. Lara does not bowl. When the wicket favored swing bowling, if Sammy had played, not only could he have made a huge difference with injuries to Fidel Edwards and Chris Gayle, but also possibly by now he could have been certified as a legitimate allrounder. Batting and bowling in the West Indies team are invaluable and very difficult to replace as they can help in the batting and bowling departments. Lara is an excellent fielder, a star and a no-nonsense player, and it’s no secret that his no-nonsense play, although at the expense of his other teammates many times, could help bring the big crowds back to the stadiums. Lara scored a century last week in Trinidad and Tobago’s match against Guyana — weeks before the Caribbean’s biggest cricket extravaganza — STANFORD 20/20 TOURISM. Lara is automatically eligible for selection in the Trinidad side. A good display on that international stage, and all the media hungry will be clamoring for his reinstatement. I smell something very Machiavellian here. Was Lewis a pawn in a larger chess move? Chanderpaul being a consummate team player, don’t be surprised to see Chanderpaul opening in the next series and Lara returning to the West Indies team.
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