An ingrained feature of the current West Indies batsmen is their inclination to play shots notwithstanding the situation they are in. It makes them one of the most sought after batsmen in the shorter formats but an absolute no-no for Tests. Such is the extent to which the shorter formats have tempered their batting that playing out time seems an alien concept now.
That is and will be the main cause behind their shambolic form in Tests. And it won’t change till they decide to fix the problem at the grassroots, which looks like a long shot now. The root cause of West Indies crumbling so soon was their inability to leave the ball and not using their feet well. The pre-match nets sessions served as a trailer for the former as batsmen regularly lost their off stumps even though the stumps were placed at bigger gaps. In the first innings, Carlos Brathwaite almost re-enacted their problem with leaving the ball as watched a full delivery angle into him and take his off stump.
This is still a young team that will take some time to soak in the pressure of international cricket and respond accordingly. But without getting their basics right, it might be a very daunting task for West Indies to avoid an embarrassing result in this series. There were exceptions like Kraigg Brathwaite who was ready to risk scoring for more stability. The ultimate result shows in his personal score in the first innings. However his dismissal --- a back of the length delivery rearing up on him --- evidently played on his mind in the second innings. That resulted in his feet not moving enough when Ishant Sharma pitched up the ball that swung in to hit him plumb.
Most disappointing must be how Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo turned out in both innings. While Bravo failed to score in both innings, Samuels got a start in the second but didn’t look to capitalise on it. West Indies captain Jason Holder admitted he expected more from the most experienced duo. “Ideally that's what we would expect from top-order batsmen. To be fair, they have to carry the demands of this young batting side. Unfortunately, Bravo didn't get any runs in this Test. Marlon showed some form in the second innings. It’s important for those two guys to carry the batting and lay the foundation. But I couldn’t agree more with you that onus is on them. Having said that, we have enough capable batsmen,” he said.
Proof of that came in the ninth wicket partnership between Carlos Brathwaite and Devendra Bishoo that yielded 95 runs. It showed that when their backs are on the wall, they can bat out time. But they need to do that more often at the top to set some kind of momentum going. “I think we need to string together partnerships for longer periods. We tend to get 20-30-run partnerships but haven’t been able to convert it to fifty and then onwards. Test cricket is about occupying the crease and spending time, but we never showed up for long periods. Some players got starts but were not able to kick on. It’s important for one of the top four batsmen to actually set the tone,” said Holder.
But if West Indies have any intention of staging a fight in this series they also need to have a serious look at their bowling and maybe include more specialist bowlers instead of packing the team with allrounders. “In hindsight you can say a lot of things. The combination we played had four bowlers and an allrounder in Roston Chase who bowls some off-spin. But execution is the name of the game. I don't think we executed well enough. We have played five bowlers before. To me, in this days and age you need an extra bowler. But having said that it still boils down to execution,” he said.