What a delight it was to finally see the Windies roar. After a string of failures finally, the West Indians have found something to cheer about. Having found the spark in the wake of two thumping wins over England, the whole cricketing community is finally hoping to see the almighty Windies back in action with full force. Having orchestrated the biggest upset of test cricket in modern times, it was a delight to watch the underdogs finally turn the tables. The 3rd placed England who came to the Caribbean after defeating the No 1 test team in the World fell miserably short against the Windies. Let us have a look at the factors which lead to the No 3 test team of the World succumb to the 8th ranked team.
FRAGILE TOP ORDER England has been struggling to find a reliable batsman at the top after Andrew Strauss retired back in 2012. With Alastair Cook being one, he longed for a potent partner since then until he retired. The English board has tried numerous options but none could give consistent results. Only Root and Balance averaged above 40, except Cook, out of the 20 other batsmen who opened for England. The County talents are not many in number and the few which make it to the team are not consistent.
The opening woes deepened after Cook’s retirement and it is now affecting the No 3 and 4 batsmen. Without a stable start, they come under humongous pressure and with only hitters to come after them. Another problem is with playing someone like Bairstow at No 3. An attacking batsman by virtue he is not a player who can build an innings after top order failure. Someone more technically sound batsman would do great in that position and Root must consider his position too.
ENGLAND NEEDS THE BATSMAN JOE ROOT Captainship comes with a lot of responsibilities. It may look like it is all about setting the field and rotating the bowlers but there is more to that. It is these additional responsibilities which are making the batsman in Joe Root disappear. In testing times when the whole squad looks up to him, he fails to perform. There has been a drastic fall in his performance after taking on the captaincy charges. His average saw a dramatic fall as he failed to average 40 in all the series he played after the Ashes thumping at Australia.
After Cook’s retirement and the frontline pacers, Anderson and Broad, nearing theirs, Root has got a lot going on in his head except the current problems. It is time the board must release him off captaincy duties and unleash the potent batsman in him, which England desperately need because he is not your guy if you are expecting him to take the team through hard times single-handedly without hampering his batting.
TOO MANY AGGRESSORS A deep batting order is a priced commodity in World Cricket today and England has the luxury at its disposal but that means they have a bunch of hard hitters in the lineup. The thing with the aggressors is they need a platform to go all out on the opponent and if your top order is not performing, as in England’s case, they can be more of a liability than an asset. In such situations, one need batsmen who have the temperament to stand and wear out the opposition instead of someone who will give his wicket away.
Bairstow, Stokes and Butler cannot win you matches alone without the top order. So all the problems are interlinked. Get a good top order and then only you can expect the hitters to fire and as is it is in England’s case it will be wise to pack the middle order with technically sound batsmen than aggressors. This will give the top order the necessary support to get their game together as they now have specialist batsmen backing them up instead of players who are not dependable.
England was on the top in home conditions where the ball moved laterally and their batsmen were comfortable with it but the Caribbeans are a different story altogether. With almost no help from the pitch, here bounce plays the role as a movement does in England and the pitches here are slower. The pitches demand a great deal of patience from the batsman which the Englishmen do not possess. If the conditions were not enough to intimidate them, the disciplined bowling attack of the Windies made the situation worse.
In all this time one thing might have surely crossed your mind: why is there no mention of flaws in the English bowling attack. Well, I think there is none to discuss. The bowlers have toiled hard to make things happen but with challenging conditions and no support from the batsmen there effort went in vain. The spinners weren’t able to use the slow surface to their advantage while the pacers were left searching for help from the pitch.
The concerns are many for England but any adverse action can lead to even more damage. The management should think wisely keeping in mind all the factors that might change while making the changes. On the other hand, the resurgence of the Windies is a delight and the fact that they are taking red ball cricket this seriously is overwhelming. Only time will say how these teams go on after such dramatic outcome of the series but one cannot deny that this has been crucial series as far as Test Cricket is concerned.
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