Two teams went out for their practice sessions in Kingston on Thursday, but the moods in the two camps couldn’t have been a bigger study in contrasts.
The Pakistanis looked a listless lot going through their paces at the Kensington Oval… unsure of whether to give longer bowling stints to the likes of Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Rao Iftikhar Anjum or to let reserve pacemen Mohammad Sami and Yasir Arafat get a better grip on the new ball.
On the other hand, the West Indians looked intent on having a fun day out even as they had a hard and long sweat-out at Chedwin Park, a long drive away from the centre of the city.
Now, if you were Brian Lara, or Bennett King for that matter, you would actually be slightly confused. You have just seen your team give a superb performance in beating Pakistan and starting with a bang. The way the team played that match was, in fact, what the think-tank has been wishing of it for a long, long time — where all the batsmen play a part, where all the bowlers return healthy figures, where balls don't roll through between the fielders' legs.
And why would that confuse you? Well, mainly because, as middle-order bat Ramnaresh Sarwan says, “We will have to make sure that the intensity remains intact and we continue to perform as a team. For too long, we have depended on one or two individuals. That wasn’t the case against Pakistan, but we have to ensure that it is not a one-off thing.”
Another surprising thing that happened against Pakistan was the way the bowlers kept the extras within bounds and didn’t give away freebies to the batsmen. Allrounder Dwayne Bravo explains: “We have been working really hard on that aspect of our game. When matches are low scoring, those additional runs really hurt. We have been trying to ensure that we don’t give that advantage to our opponents.”
West Indies is a team in transition, and it has been that way for a long, long time now. It’s not like there haven’t been good performances during this phase. There have been a number of them, in fact. And that’s convinced the team that “the seniors need to rally the youngsters around and make sure things stay within the plan set out in the dressing rooms,” as Sarwan says.
And even that is not without a little puzzle, seeing that all the experienced hands — Lara, Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle — are batsmen. What about the bowling?
As for Lara, he spent most of the afternoon walking around the park as the rest of the team went through its paces and then proceeded to juggle a cricket ball with his feet for an extended session of keepie-uppies at the end of the practice session, much to the delight of the camera crews around.