Monday, November 22, 2010

Expect the Sri Lankans to bounce back

As I write this piece the start of the second ERI Test between the West Indies and Sri Lanka is just a few hours away. To say it is eagerly anticipated would be an understatement. West Indian fans are anxious to see if their team’s performance in the first game was just an anomaly, or if the players are really a rejuvenated bunch willing – and able – to apply themselves to the cause of returning the Calypso Kings to the pinnacle of world cricket.

Not many expected the series to be nil-all after the first Test, and for the West Indians to emerge with their heads held high. But thanks mainly to the brilliance of Chris Gayle and the inspired bowling of Shane Shillingford and Kemar Roach that is exactly the situation.

The West Indian acquitted themselves well. In my opinion Darren Sammy led the team admirably although I do believe he should have taken the new ball when it was due in the Sri Lanka first innings. I would also like to see him bowl a few more overs, after all he is a bowling all-rounder, and not a cheerleader as some of his detractors put it.

As a result of their showing the real test of Sammy and his men’s mettle begins now. The Sri Lankans are smarting. You could clearly hear the disappointment in Kumar Sangakkara’s voice when he basically admitted in the post match interview that they were surprised at the West Indians’ competitiveness. In other words they underestimated us. They know for sure now that this team did not just show up to pad anybody’s resumé. This team came to play cricket.

And so the Sri Lankans are eager to make amends. They are looking forward to the game as much as we the fans are.

Someone I’m certain is looking forward to this game more than most is Sulieman Benn. The fiery spinner was forced to sit out the first game due to his indiscretions against South Africa earlier in the year. How he must have longed to be in the middle to exploit the Galle conditions alongside Shane Shillingford who, I believe, will survive this examination of his bowling action. Given the problems he posed in Galle seeing him and Benn operating in tandem at Premdasa is another eagerly anticipated subplot.

Benn’s expected return, although welcomed, however weakens the new ball attack with Andre Russell most likely to make way after just the one Test. This means Dwayne Bravo should partner Roach up front. Not entirely a proposition that would cause opposition openers sleepless nights but entirely necessary especially since the alternative is the skipper himself.

In closing I must say the man has only been in charge for one game and should be given some slack. His personal returns were negligible, to say the least, but he did preside over a draw in a match his team dominated. And I do recall a statement from the West Indies Cricket Board earlier in the year that the short term focus is on drawing games. What better way for Sammy to start than by drawing a game in the fortress that is Sri Lanka?

For those who cannot accept that the man is in the team I would like to remind them then he was named captain for three series. After that his performance and that of the team will be reviewed. If both are found wanting then I’m sure he would be shown the door, but if the team manages to perform beyond our expectations, win a few matches…maybe a series, then it means Sammy is doing something right. It means the team would be making steps towards top ratings again…and that is what we all want to see, right?