Lead West Indies selector Roger Harper has made a strong defence of fast bowler Shannon Gabriel following the just-concluded Test series against Sri Lanka.
The two-match rubber was drawn 0-0, with Gabriel finishing with just one wicket, before having his participation on the last day of the second Test ended by a hamstring injury. His performances have raised questions in some parts about his effectiveness and fitness.
But Harper has given the 32-year-old speedster his backing. Speaking on the Mason and Guest radio cricket talk show on the Voice of Barbados on Tuesday, Harper said the bare figures did not tell the story of how Gabriel has performed in recent series.
“No one looks at the amount of overs he bowls, no one looks at the pace he bowls at, no one looks at the impact that he has and take all these things into consideration,” Harper began. “I was a little disappointed with Gabriel’s performance in the first innings of the first Test (against Sri Lanka). However, when you look at the production of the seamers on those surfaces, you would realise that a lot of the fast bowlers didn’t have a great amount of success.
“In addition, while Gabriel may have had one wicket, you need to take into consideration the chances he created as well that went down. If you look at someone like Gabriel over the past three series, I think that he has had somewhere in excess of 15 to 17 chances that have been put down off his bowling, so these are things that we must consider as well.”
Harper was also questioned about the fast bowler’s workload.
Earlier this week, former Trinidad and Tobago Red Force chairman of selectors Tony Gray questioned how Gabriel was prepared for the Test series. However, asked about his workload on Tuesday, Harper said he did not feel the pacer was overworked against Sri Lanka. However, he noted: “What a lot of players complained of is the heaviness of the outfield at the Sir Vivian Richards ground, very sandy underfoot, so they had heavy legs...I don’t think it has anything to do with say his (Gabriel’s) workload as such.”
And commenting overall on the home series against the Sri Lankans which also included 2-1 and 3-0 victories in the T20 and One-Day rubbers, Harper said:“Overall it was a very pleasing effort...To come away with a series victory in the T20s, a 3-0 victory in the ODIs and then as much as we would have liked to have won those two Test matches or at least won the series, to come away with two draws I think is a positive for us. I think we had a very good home series and it is a performance we can continue to build on.”
Lead selector’s one disappointment was that the team missed what he saw as a chance for victory in the first Test.
“We really lost an opportunity in the first innings of the first Test,” he said. “Having dismissed Sri Lanka for a relatively low score (169), we really needed to build a big lead and apply the pressure to the Sri Lankans but instead we got a lead of a little over 100 and then the pitch got very flat and we found ourselves batting to save the game rather than really applying pressure to the Sri Lankans.
“I thought we lost an opportunity there by not being able to build a big first innings lead...having bowled them out when the pitch had a little moisture in it early on in that first innings. We bowled and managed to use that to our advantage but we didn’t bat and take advantage of it, so I think we let that opportunity slip.”
However, he added that, “the fact that we were able to bat out the fourth innings for a draw is significant because I can’t really tell the last time a West Indies Test team was able to do that.”