Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wither the West Indian paceman?

For the best part of two decades, there was nothing like a Test series against the West Indies to send your batting average into freefall. For those unfortunate enough to have their Test careers coincide with the four-pronged pace battery, it was a case of “what might have been” as their overall Test records were deflated somewhat by their ordeal by pace. Here by way of an example are four players who ended their Test careers with Test batting averages of more than forty, but struggled against the Caribbean pacemen:

Javed Mianded (career 52.57, v West Indies 29.78)
Mohammad Azharuddin (career 45.03, v West Indies 28.36)
David Gower (career 44.25, v West Indies 32.82)
Mark Taylor (career 43.49, v West Indies 28.11)

Even though the West Indies led the series one-nil going into the fifth and final Test with England last week at the Queen’s Park Oval, given their history of bowling strength, it was still surprising to see that they dropped a bowler in favour of a more conservative approach.

The West Indian bowling attack at Trinidad managed a total of 1725 points which is obtained by adding all the bowlers’ current Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings points. When you consider that England’s bowling attack – which featured debutant Amjad Khan and a man playing in just his fifth Test (Graeme Swann) totalled 2198 points – it is possible to see what a weak bowling attack the home team fielded, especially lacking the injured Jerome Taylor’s 670 points.

Few though 1725 points may seem, back in May 2003 at Bridgetown, the entire West Indian team which took the field against Australia at Bridgetown had a total of only 944 bowling points – their lowest total since they faced India in November 1948. Unsurprisingly, the Aussies piled up 605 for nine declared and triumphed by nine wickets as Messrs Lawson, Best, Drakes, Banks and Gayle tried their utmost, but toiled hard for more than 150 overs.

So – if that was the modern “nadir” of the West Indian bowling line-up, who comprised the strongest? With the help of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings we can offer an answer, and – funnily enough – it occurred in a match in which a batsman made most of the headlines.

Back in April 1986, the home team went into the final Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground already leading the series with England 4-0. To rub salt in the English wounds, Viv Richards made the most of his home ground to make what is still the fastest-ever Test century – from just 56 deliveries. However, Ratings-wise, this was the strongest-ever West Indian bowling attack to take the field with a combined total of 3635 Ratings points and three of the top five bowlers.



Malcolm Marshall


Joel Garner


Michael Holding


Roger Harper


Patrick Patterson


Viv Richards


Larry Gomes


Desmond Haynes


Right now, Jerome Taylor is the only West Indian in the top twenty of the bowling Ratings. What they wouldn’t give for one of the top three from 1986 in the team right now!