West Indies learns spin’s virtues

Wednesday, 2 March 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

NEW DELHI (Reuters): Dwayne Bravo’s injury could well turn out to be a veiled blessing for a West Indies team which had to dump their original strategy for one which recognised spinners’ enhanced role in the World Cup.

Coach Ottis Gibson has admitted that losing paceman Bravo last week through a knee injury has upset the team’s original strategy built around the talismanic player and fellow all-rounders Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard.

“With him missing, it gives us an opportunity to perhaps re-think whether we need another batsman at six and perhaps an extra bowler,” Gibson said before Monday’s match against the Netherlands. “Hopefully, the next team will reflect our new thinking.”

This conspicuous shift in strategy for a team which based its 1975 and 1979 Cup-winning sides on its long-standing pace heritage is a direct result of Bravo’s injury and no wonder Gibson preferred to call it an “opportunity.” Mirroring the “new thinking,” Pollard was promoted in the batting order, senior players like Chris Gayle were asked to shoulder more responsibility and more emphasis was put on the slow bowlers by drafting in left-arm spinner Nikita Miller for the 215-run win against the Dutch.

They also decided to fly in uncapped Guyanese leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo as Bravo’s replacement, realising a thin spin resource would seriously compromise any bowling attack on the subcontinent’s dust bowls.

All these augur well for a side that is out to convince the sceptics that the West Indies are not past their pomp and that it is premature to group them with the whipping boys of international cricket -- such as the non-test playing Dutch. The manner of the victory was as significant as the margin and West Indies went into the match with a specific plan their upstart Dutch opponents had no answer to. Not even Kemar Roach’s sensational six-wicket haul, including the 2011 World Cup’s first hat-trick to wrap up the Netherlands’ innings, is likely to sway the West Indies’ new-found belief in the spinners’ enhanced role. Gayle’s batting philosophy was a revelation as the left-hander allowed Devon Smith to dominate their century partnership, a rare restraint from a man who otherwise loathes playing second fiddle. Pollard’s promotion in the batting order also paid dividends with the all-rounder celebrating it with a 27-ball 60 that took them past the 300-mark.

The team also placed faith in Sulieman Benn, opening the attack with the spinner -- a ploy which was a novelty in 1992 when New Zealand captain Martin Crowe tried it but commonplace in this tournament.

In contrast, the Netherlands will be wondering what went wrong after a near fairytale outing against England last Tuesday which they only lost with eight balls to spare. Their bowling was never anything to write home about and their batting came unstuck against Roach’s pace and Benn’s spin. Their fielding was sloppy and the overall approach suggested a drop in their intensity having given their best against England. Dutch skipper Peter Borren summed it up best when asked whether inserting West Indies at Feroz Shah Kotla was a good idea. “If we are going to bat and bowl and field as poorly as we did today, it actually makes no difference if we bat or field first,” he responded.

World Cup hat-tricks

REUTERS: List of players who have claimed hat-tricks in the Cricket World Cup after West Indies pace bowler Kemar Roach captured three wickets off consecutive balls on Monday against Netherlands.

1987: Chetan Sharma (India) v New Zealand (Ken Rutherford, Ian Smith, Ewen Chatfield) 1999: Saqlain Mushtaq (Pakistan) v Zimbabwe (Henry Olonga, Adam Huckle, Pommie Mbangwa) 2003: Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka) v Bangladesh (Hannan Sarkar, Mohammad Ashraful, Ehsanul Haque) 2003: Brett Lee (Australia) v Kenya (Kennedy Otieno, Brijal Patel, David Obuya) 2007: Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka) v South Africa (Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Makhaya Ntini)* 2011: Kemar Roach (West Indies) v Netherlands (Pieter Seelaar, Bernard Loots, Berend Westdijk)

*Malinga got four wickets in four balls