Bangladesh tour of West Indies, 2018
We are out here in Chris Gayle territory. It’s Universe Boss’ home. Expecting big hits, aren’t you?
Or are you expecting mega bowling routs? Who’s going to take the next five-for and which team is going to hit a bucket-full of boundaries- is all going to be revealed in the decider at Jamaica.
A bit of beer in the ground, a bit of exhaustion for players, the afternoon sun blowing away talents like a burned toast and the jolly good rum punch on the beach- Cricket comes home when it visits the West Indies.
But, the purist, the Test-match lover, the believer in survival of dusty whites, rubbed by ferocious red-ball cricket would want nothing quite as much as for a few stands to be submerged completely by frolic, noise and, cheer.
People should visit.
Rally around the West Indies. Fill in the stands.
Sabina Park is, after all, a historic cricketing destination for the West Indies. In the landscape of Caribbean Cricket- this is a Mecca, a revered ground of spiritual importance.
For many seasons ago, when Sachin and Lara weren’t even born and when Holder and Tamim Iqbal’s parents had probably just met, Sir Sobers struck cricket’s highest individual score here.
It was at Sabina Park that Sobers would strike 365 not out. In the past, the true West Indies fans, a breed having fainted seeing dismal performances by a losing team, constant in its spiral decline has awakened to the awe Lara produced in his 213 against Australia.
But for Bangladesh, the harshest memory of playing West Indies at Jamaica concerns neither Sir Sobers nor the great Lara.
For it was Sarwan who, many summers ago, struck 261 and remained unconquered.
Perhaps the only thing that might have changed in a pitch from the Sabina Park of 2004 to present day is those who come to see Test cricket.
At best, the wicket is both batting-friendly as well as a provider of hope to bowlers. Shanon Gabriel, Devendra Bishoo, Jason Holder, Shakib al Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Mehidy will all fancy their chances.
Sadly, the West Indies will have to gun down Bangladesh- as they would hope- without Kemar Roach
The main man, the force behind the obliteration at Antigua is out with injury. In walks a tall, rabid pacer Alzarri Joseph. He’s already applied sweat to the ball previously and undone batsmen with his natural tendency to produce bounce. A distant cousin of Miguel Cummins in terms of natural flair you wonder? And little could you be blamed.
Yet, at the same time where the impetus rests with the West Indies, as does the hope to fire, a resistance could be expected from any among Tamim, captain Shakib or the resourceful Mushfiqur.
Have you had a look at how the famous Bangladeshi trinity has fared against Windies?
Perhaps you should for if you didn’t it would not give you enough flavour of just how brilliantly did the West Indies outplay their visitors in the last Test.
Don’t be lost in the riddle.
All three premier Bangladesh batsmen have plundered lots of runs against the West Indies, in case you never noticed.
While Shakib’s struck 544 (including 5 fifties) at a very healthy 45 from 7 Tests, Mushfiqur Raheem has plundered 566 (including 1 hundred and 2 fifties) from 9 Tests.
In fact, so consistent has been Raheem’s Windies record that he’s found a way to strike the second-highest number of his Test runs against Holder’s side.
But make way for Tamim Iqbal, who couldn’t last an hour in the last Test
Arguably, amongst the finest and most elegant timers of the cricket ball, a Saeed Anwar for Bangladesh if you like, has carved 703 runs from 9 Tests, including 5 hundreds.
The point, West Indies bowlers should note, is that neither Shakib or Tamim have fired a hundred against the West Indies. That does mean, with the visitors’ backs against the wall, a surprise could possibly lurk around the corner.
Should any among Jason Holder or Shanon Gabriel fail to deliver on the promise, we are seeing surely a live-wire contest at Sabina Park.
Importantly, the West Indies’ batsmen haven’t had any great deal of experience in going daggers drawn against Bangladesh.
While Brathwaite launched his seventh Test hundred, amongst the most unsung knocks you’ll see from a Windies batsman in the past decade- since focus purely rested with Roach’s hostile spell- there’s literally no one in the order who can force pressure by sheer weight of runs.
In the absence of Gayle, Samuels, Bravo, who were around the last time the side came visiting- Holder’s got to extend his arm around Shai Hope and Roston Chase.
Perhaps, if Chase has to mount a comeback, then Sabina Park fits ideally
It was here in the summers of 2016 that Roston ‘Chased’ his dream; solidifying his space in the Windies unit, striking a dogged unbeaten 137.
Kohli’s team couldn’t conquer him. The rain gods- that surely may not play much of a role in these 5 days- were delighted and saved Windies from what could’ve been a horrid loss.
This time, Roston Chase would want to draw some inspiration from his close friend and frequent batting collaborator- Shai Hope, who bounced back with a gritty 67 at Antigua.
So far, Roston Chase has scored 2 runs from the only inning he’s played versus the ‘Tigers’
That also leaves us to ponder whether vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite would wish to relive a bit of a glory from his past?
It was against Bangladesh that Brathwaite struck his only Test double-hundred. Youtube may not be your greatest resource to revisit the Bajan’s monument of concentration.
Holder would want to ask his team’s leading batsman if he can do either of Smith or Powell’s lack of consistent scoring?
Meanwhile, Devendra Bishoo, who enjoys a sparkling bit of form against Bangladesh, who he’s bullied in the past- 11 wickets from 3 Tests (including 1 five-for) at a miserly average of 22 would fancy contributing finally where much of the work’s been done by his colleagues.
Time for Joseph to step up the ante of pace bowling
Gabriel wouldn’t mind.
In all, we have amidst us the prospect of seeing a glittery contest between the doggedness of batsmen who’ll have to fight for runs and the majesty of bowling, Bangladesh aided by spin and Windies bolstered by pace.
Who prevails may not stay in the realm of previous head-to-head battles as such but perhaps it makes sense to visit what’s transpired between the two sides in 5-day contests.
The West Indies have won 9 of the 13 Tests they’ve played against Bangladesh. Out of these, the tourists have bagged only 2 Test victories and stand now at the cusp of winning a solitary Test, if not a series, provided that happens.
But that told, what’ll play on captain Jason Holder’s mind would be his lack of success in front of home fans, rather empty, sleepy stadia.
Overall, from 10 captaincy assignments, he’s won only a single Test series as the leader of the West Indies. This does not, however, include a single series win in the Caribbean.
Can Skipper Holder hold on to something special at Sabina Park? Let the game begin!