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This West Indies line-up lacks the essential attributes of batsmanship

S. Dinakar

— PHOTO: AP

TESTING TIMES:With the senior players not pulling their weight, batting coach Desmond Haynes (left) has a truckload of problems.

Kingston (Jamaica): Application is the essence of batsmanship. This quality is in short supply in the West Indies line-up.

Time and again, the Caribbeans have succumbed to stressful situations. Under pressure, desperation rather than an approach driven by common sense has undermined the West Indians.

The irony of it all would not have been lost on Ravi Rampaul, Fidel Edwards and Devendra Bishoo who batted bravely to prolong the inevitable on the decisive fourth day of the first Test after the specialist batsmen had shown little heart and character. For the West Indies, the bowlers have to take wickets and then make the runs as well. It's a hard ask.

From the pavilion, batting coach Desmond Haynes would have winced in anguish. He formed one of the most successful opening combinations in cricket history with Gordon Greenidge.

Those were the glory days of the West Indies cricket under Clive Lloyd. The powerful stroke-makers who could also adapt to varying conditions would put runs on the board and then the menacing pacemen would blow away the opposition.

Men such as Greenidge and Lloyd were brutal strikers of the ball but they also knew when to attack and defend.

Vivian Richards was dominant right through but then he was a phenomenal talent. He could dismiss deliveries as if he was swatting flies.

Actually the decline of the West Indies cricket began from the early 90s after the legendary Richards drifted away from the scene.

Formidable three

If the West Indies still won some memorable series subsequently, it was primarily due to the influence of three formidable cricketers — Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

The gifted Lara would conjure remarkable innings in adversity and then Walsh and Ambrose would slice through the opposition. It was evident even during Lara's time that the West Indies batting lacked depth. Too much hinged on one man; batting collapses were commonplace.

Skipper Darren Sammy had a point when he said the West Indies batting has been failing for a significant period of time in Test cricket.

Some of the young West Indian batsmen are not lacking in ability. What they require is a change in mind-set. They need to find the right balance between flair and solidity.

The young Adrian Barath is a compelling striker of the ball but has a tendency to shuffle across that can make him vulnerable to deliveries darting in or straightening.

The left-handed Darren Bravo can be stylish with his cuts and cover-drives but is no Lara. He needs to develop innings building skills. Presently, he moves too much across the crease for a Test batsman.

The seniors too are not pulling their weight. Ramnaresh Sarwan's game seems to have been consumed by self-doubts. Once a crisp strokemaker with exemplary footwork, Sarwan pushes and prods these days.

The tenacious Shivnarine Chanderpaul's powers of concentration — his greatest asset — appear to be diminishing. He is wasting starts.

Haynes has a truckload of problems to work upon. The foremost among them is the emerging batsmen's tendency to play away from the body that kept 'keeper Dhoni and the Indian slip cordon busy. But then, Haynes can only spot the chinks and pass on his knowledge to the batsmen. He cannot bat for them in the middle.

Sammy, rightly, drew the distinction between batting at the nets and delivering for the side in the middle.

Chris Gayle, an impact player with destructive strokes, could make a difference if he returns. This West Indies team, however, requires a collective effort than an individual act of brilliance.

Building partnerships is another essential attribute of batsmanship. This quality too is in short supply in the West Indies line-up.

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