Following his unbeaten 51 in the second innings of the Antigua Test against India, Carlos Brathwaite’s Test record looked like this: five innings, three half-centuries, a batting average of 45.25. Any specialist batsman would be proud of numbers like that, but Brathwaite isn’t a specialist batsman. He has batted no higher than No. 8 so far, and his primary role in the West Indies team is to bowl seam.
At the end of the Antigua Test, Brathwaite had taken only one wicket in his three Tests, at an average of 242.00.
Jason Holder, West Indies’ captain, has played 14 Tests. He has scored one hundred, three fifties, and averages 27.18 with the bat – perfectly good returns for a lower-order batsman, but, like Brathwaite, his primary job is bowling. At the end of the Antigua Test, he had taken 21 wickets at an average of 42.95 and a strike rate of 93.9.
In Antigua, Holder and Brathwaite weren’t third and fourth seamers. They were, respectively, new-ball bowler and first-change. Between them, they finished with figures of 0 for 163 in 49 overs in India’s only innings.
Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar, ESPNcricinfo’s expert analyst on the tour, had suggested on Saturday that West Indies were misusing the talents of Holder and Brathwaite. Taking the example of Ravi Shastri, who began his career primarily as a left-arm spinner but ended up as more of a top-order batsman than a bowler, Manjrekar suggested that West Indies push both up the order and pick an extra fast bowler to strengthen their bowling.
Speaking to the media after West Indies’ innings-and-92-run loss inside four days, Holder defended West Indies’ selection, and said it was the execution of the bowling attack’s plans that had gone wrong, and not its composition.
“In hindsight you can say a lot of things,” Holder said. “The combination we played had four bowlers and an allrounder in Roston Chase, who bowls some offspin. But execution is the name of the game. I don’t think we executed well enough.”
Holder’s answer did not stop further questions about West Indies’ bowling attack. Asked specifically about his own bowling, and that of Brathwaite, he said they weren’t necessarily West Indies’ strike bowlers, and that their role was instead to hold an end up and build pressure by drying up the runs.
“To be honest, myself and Carlos are going up to a certain point in terms of what our roles are, bowling areas together and pick up one or two wickets,” he said. “But if runs are leaking from both ends, primarily from the other end, it makes cricket a little easier for batsmen.
“Having said that, we tried to get some wickets. But it just didn’t come together. There is no doubt we need to take some wickets going forward into the next Test match. You must give the Indian batsmen credit. [Virat] Kohli and [R] Ashwin played well. We put Ashwin down. Had we taken that chance you never know [what] the game could have brought. It’s cricket again. Just need to hold our chances in terms of Carlos, me and other bowlers. Just make sure we chip in.”
Eventually, while maintaining that execution was the biggest issue in the Antigua Test, he conceded that West Indies may have needed to play another bowler.
“In cricket, it’s down to execution,” he said. “We need to execute as bowlers. [In earlier matches], we have played five bowlers. To me, in this day and age, you need an extra bowler. But, having said that, it still boils down to execution. You can play five bowlers, you can play four bowlers, but if you don’t execute at the end of the day you will still be at the first stage.”
With West Indies only managing totals of 243 and 231 on a good batting surface, Holder said the batsmen hadn’t strung together enough partnerships.
“We tend to get 20-30-run partnerships but haven’t been able to convert it to 50 and then onwards,” he said. “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.
“In the first innings, Kraigg Brathwaite did a decent job of it, but we were not able to string together partnerships upfront and set up a good foundation for a good first-innings total. And we were playing catch-up from there.”
It would be important for senior batsmen such as Darren Bravo, who failed in both innings, and Marlon Samuels, who scored a half-century in the second innings, to lead the batting unit going forward in the series, Holder said.
“Ideally that’s what we would expect from top-order batsmen,” he said. “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. Important for those two guys to carry the batting and lay the foundation. But I couldn’t agree more with you that the onus is on them. Having said that, we have more than enough capable batsmen.”
Given the inexperience running through the side, Holder felt it was important for the players to have “personal pride” in order to lift themselves up from the defeat.
“I think it boils down to personal pride,” he said. “Roston, Shane [Dowrich] and [Rajendra] Chandrika, myself, [Jermaine] Blackwood are quite young players. We are all looking to make a mark in the international circuit. For us it’s just personal glory, personal pride. Just execute and performing well, you know, having a good Test career.
“That’s what each person coming to Test cricket is looking to do. I think all of us want to do that. I think we need to come up with a strong collective effort. As I said we just need to execute, stick together, look at our weak areas, strengths as well, and try make those stronger. In terms of the weaker areas, just tighten up on them.” (ESPNcricinfo)
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo