Monday, 5 January 2015

Selfishness and West Indies batting

It’s clear that the West Indies don’t have a strong and united team. Perhaps the only thing they’re united on is abandoning tours. In India they left in body, in South Africa today they left in spirit. Are the West Indies’ best batsmen, the men who should be grafting runs, selfish?
Marlon Samuels is more arrogant than he has any right to be. Virat Kohli can say he has no respect for Mitchell Johnson if he’s just made 499 runs at 83.16 in the series, but can Samuels say that no spinner in the world can bowl at him with a Test average of 35.72?

He’s received, perhaps rightly, a great deal of criticism for getting caught at long on, precipitating another West Indies collapse, but the criticism from the commentators and pundits fell down in one crucial way. When Samuels had hit Harmer for two sixes and an aerially struck four, all with long on in place, he was applauded for the shots, but labelled “brainless” by Bob Willis for trying to do the same thing again.

A less obvious example of selfishness was Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Compare his batting with the tail to Kumar Sangakkara’s. The Sri Lankan legend built three significant partnerships with lower order batsmen to give his team an unexpected lead. He did that by taking as much responsibility as possible, giving his partners one or two balls an over at most whenever possible, helping them settle and even coaxing the odd defensive shot out of Rangana Herath.

While Samuels was chastised for taking too much risk, Chanderpaul (despite being the owner of an 69 ball Test century, proof he can take the attack to teams) seemingly refused to take responsibility, leaving tail-enders who either didn’t have the talent or the temperament to cope with a fired up Dale Steyn.

It would be difficult to blame him giving Jason Holder, an emerging all-rounder, the strike, and Jerome Taylor got out too soon to try to protect him. However, the ball after that wicket he blocked the last ball of an over, not even trying to get the single to protect the number ten, Sulieman Benn. Lo and behold, Benn nicked off against Steyn next over, sucummbing to bowling that was just too good for him.

Next, Chanderpaul took an ill-advised single off the fifth ball of that over, giving Shannon Gabriel possibly a whole over against Simon Harmer. Again Chanderpaul kept himself away from danger, responding to Gabriel’s call for a single off the fourth ball of that over then padding away the last ball of the over, not even trying to take a single to get to Steyn’s end.

Gabriel ended up facing ten of the fourteen balls in that last wicket partnership. The final indignity from Chanderpaul was running himself out taking a ludicrous single to get on strike for one ball, which he presumably would have left alone to give Gabriel the strike yet again.

Samuels will get more blame, but the utterly brainlessness came from Holder and particularly Taylor’s shots, and Chanderpaul’s utter lack of desire to take responsibility for shepherding the tail. You get the feeling that Chanderpaul thinks that if he gets a red-inker that he’s done his bit. He hasn’t.

Is he too old for this shit? Not physically or in terms of ability to score Test runs, but has Chanderpaul’s formidable mental strength been worn down by years of struggle? He’s just as good as ever at batting within himself, but has he lost the mental strength to be the main man, sometimes the only man. If he has, it’s time to go.

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