John Campbell

‘MUST GIVE UP OPENING SLOT’: File photo from December 4, 2020, shows West Indies’ John Campbell in action during the first Test against New Zealand at Seddon Park in Hamilton, New Zealand.

“So let’s see if the upcoming tests against sri lanka show that the west indies cricket ball is still rolling in the right direction.”

That was the last line of my last column three weeks ago, and the evidence of the ten days of play against Sri Lanka at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium over the past fortnight confirms that the trajectory remains positive.

After more than 25 years of general strife in the traditional format it is only natural to be skeptical, to hesitate before getting too optimistic because the let-down which follows feels so much worse.

So will there be a let-down in the home series which follow against South Africa, Australia and Pakistan? Maybe, but now we have the two-month hiatus of the Indian Premier League to contextualise the first 0-0 stalemate in Test cricket since Bangladesh hosted the South Africans in a monsoon-ruined campaign in 2015, and then project towards what is likely to happen later in the year.

There are so many variables when it comes to properly assessing performances (quality of opponents and state of pitches come immediately to mind) at any time. Yet the signs are encouraging.

Sri Lanka may not have been at full strength, however the West Indies batting through the last day of the first Test to comfortably ensure a draw says something about their determination, even on a placid surface. Of course the visitors did the same just last Friday. However for the match to get to that stage meant the West Indies holding the upper hand to the point where they could have declared in the second innings late on the fourth day at 280 for four.

After the surprise 2-0 triumph in Bangladesh and this two-match stalemate, the West Indies’ unbeaten runs in Tests is now their longest since 2012/13, when a drawn, rain-drenched finale to a 2-0 series loss in England was followed by six consecutive wins. That was followed though by a succession of heavy defeats in India and New Zealand which led to the conclusion that the preceding victories over New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe were flattered by weak or unsettled opponents.

Is Kraigg Brathwaite all that much of a better captain than Jason Holder? I am not convinced.

Is there greater solidity in the batting line-up? Sort of, except that John Campbell at the top of the order and Jermaine Blackwood in the middle (even if he is vice-captain), must give way to any two of Shai Hope, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks and Roston Chase.

As for the bowling, well, as head coach Phil Simmons effectively confirmed in his post-series media conference on Saturday, this attack has a settled look to it and there really aren’t too many other names – Veerasammy Permaul will be one – banging on the selectors’ door for consideration.

Look, who can really guarantee the familiar lamentations won’t return with the arrival of the Proteas in June? No-one. Still, it has to be acknowledged that there appears, on the evidence of the last four Test matches, a willingness to fight.

That alone is an encouraging sign.

On the other hand, any optimism for the national team getting to the final stages of qualification for Qatar 2022?

As with the cricket, the next bit of serious action is in June where everything seems to be building towards that final first-round game against St Kitts/Nevis on June 8 being the one to decide which of the two will advance to the next stage of the journey.

There is such a disjointed, chaotic feel to the state of the game here, even more than usual, that notwithstanding the disappointment of the draw with Puerto Rico, the fact that Trinidad and Tobago still have their fate on their own boots (wins against the Bahamas and St Kitts/Nevis and they are through) is a relief, whether or not they mess it up in those final two games.

So the players must be commended for their efforts, and of course the coach, although I just cannot understand how Terry Fenwick’s disgraceful attitude towards a member of the media, ahead of their departure for the games against Guyana and Puerto Rico, has been allowed to slide by when we have an organisation called the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago in existence.

Obviously this is a non-issue for the general public because few outside of the profession of journalism (and even many in it) view it is as objective and impartial, but when the facts are so clear, when even the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association media officer can confirm Fenwick’s initial position and then suggest that the issue has been blown out of proportion, MATT’s continuing silence on such a cut-and-dry challenge to press freedom can only mean that the organisation now exists in name only.

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