“It won’t be easy”; but West Indies ready for spin trial in Sri Lanka
By Akeem Greene
West Indies will tour Sri Lanka for two Test matches at Galle, the first of which starts November 21 and captain Kraigg Brathwaite has expressed it will take some hard work to defeat the hosts on their favoured hunting ground.
In five visits to Sri Lanka, the best result has been two drawn series, in 1993 and 2010. On their last tour in October 2015, Sri Lanka won the first Test in Galle by an innings and six runs, and in Colombo, the hosts won by 72 runs.
The Caribbean men’s highest total in the four innings was 251, and Brathwaite is one of seven men – the others being Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Jermaine Blackwood and Jomel Warrican – returning from the 2015 tour.
He contended that on this occasion, they need to work extremely hard to combat the heavy diet of quality spin expected.
“Sri Lanka typically has dry, spinner friendly pitches, quite similar to Bangladesh so we more than likely will get a good diet of spin so I think that it is very important,” the skipper recently stated in a press briefing.
“I think it is important as batters we have that same clarity when batting spin especially, not that pacers would not play an important role as well, but you can look forward to spin, especially in Galle. We know what we have to do as a team, it won’t be easy, so we know we have to work hard.”
The skipper was in high praise for his batsmen, who are usually under pressure for their under performances.
In the two Best v Best Three-Day matches held in Antigua, several of the team’s first-choice batsmen spent time in the middle and some even had significant scores in preparation for this tour.
Albeit vastly different conditions and challenges are anticipated in Sri Lanka, Brathwaite felt it was a step in the right direction.
“When you are preparing for a Test series, one of the keys is to spend time in the middle. We have the Best v Best games now and when batters can spend time and get runs, that is a plus for the batting unit and the team. So, I am very pleased with how the majority of the guys spent time in the middle and got some runs as well and we have a practice game in Sri Lanka where will get another opportunity to spend more time then get ready to play some tough Test cricket,” the 28-year-old explained.
Hope for Hope in the middle
Lead Selector Roger Harper clarified that Shai Hope will return to the middle, adding greater depth and stability to combat the spinners and the uncapped Jeremy Solozano will partner Brathwaite atop the order.
Hope cracked a century and a solid half-century during the practice matches, batting in the middle-order.
The right-hander has been West Indies’ most prolific One-Day International batsman in recent years opening the batting, and with a dearth of quality options to partner Brathwaite in Test, he was given such top order responsibility, but failed miserably.
Opening the batting, Hope averages 14.40 and at number three 17.52, but at number four and five, he averages 32.70 and 50.00.
“There is a review of Shai Hope and the opening position and he has since been batting in the middle…when we looked at the opposition and the conditions we would be facing, we wanted to ensure we had players who were good at playing spin and have experience in those conditions in that middle order because they will be the ones having to grind it out against the spin so we are looking at him for the middle order in one of those slots and Solozono is placed at the top of the order,” the Lead Selector explained.
The second Test starts November 29, but before both Tests, they play a warm-up fixture from November 14.
West Indies have played one series thus far in the second cycle of the World Test championship and it was a 1-1 draw against Pakistan in August.
West Indies Test squad: Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Kyle Mayers, Veerasammy Permaul, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales, Jeremy Solozano and Jomel Warrican.