Kraigg Brathwaite wants West Indies batsmen to trust their defence

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West Indies opener Kraigg Brathwaite

ESPNcricinfo– West Indies lost six wickets in a session on Friday and the remaining 14 were gone soon after tea on Saturday. In all, they batted only 98.5 overs. But that isn’t the story. The way they batted is.

Keemo Paul and Roston Chase were the overnight batsmen. Their team was six down in the first innings with less than 100 on the board. But neither man cared about playing time. Paul kept sweeping Kuldeep Yadav to the square-leg boundary. Chase enjoyed lofting R Ashwin straight down the ground. And these were the few instances of them making proper connection.

There were other times that West Indies tried to attack India’s spinners but came away looking quite clumsy. Shane Dowrich, with four overs left to stumps, went for a booming cover drive against Kuldeep and was bowled through the gate. In the second innings, Chase plopped a half-volley straight into the hands of cover and Shimron Hetmyer slogged right across the line to be caught at short third man.

Four batsmen in the first innings (Sunil Ambris, Chase, Dowrich, Paul) and five (Hetmyer, Ambris, Chase, Paul, Shannon Gabriel) in the second fell playing attacking shots. Two of them were caught at long-on and long-off. Was that because the team had decided if they were going down, they’d do so all guns blazing? No.

Kraigg Brathwaite, the stand-in captain, confirmed it was a “personal plan, obviously, in terms of attacking shots. Going forward what we need to do is along with the attacking shots, trust in defence. I think that’s the key. Obviously, when the field goes back, it’s a matter of still saying positive in defence and putting away the bad balls, stroking the ball along the ground for singles. I just think we didn’t trust our defence as much as we should have.”

This approach surprised the Indian bowlers as well. “I genuinely believed that the second innings will be a lot more fighting and there will be a lot more partnerships,” Ashwin told host broadcaster Star Sports. “Yes, there was one. But this wicket is pretty good, it’s pretty solid to bat and I don’t think it’s going to spin tomorrow as well. So I was quite surprised – shocked is the wrong word – with the number of shots that were played against spin and the number of high-risk shots that were played. Maybe it was a strategy they came out with, to try and attack the spinners and put us off. It clearly didn’t work this time.”

While he didn’t want West Indies to stop trying to play their shots, Brathwaite hoped that they be more judicious with it.

“It’s just about trusting your plans. I think today we were a lot more positive but we still didn’t get the big partnerships. So I think going forward, a balance of defence and attack, I think once we can do that and build partnerships, will be good.”

Jason Holder, when he addressed the pre-match press conference three days ago, said he wanted his batsmen to “be patient”; to look for runs but not be “reckless”. In his absence, his team was found lacking for both bowling and batting discipline.

Brathwaite said he wasn’t “100% sure” of Holder’s condition for the next Test in Hyderabad which begins on October 12; that they needed a “couple more days” to assess the ankle injury he had picked up during the third week of September in a training camp in Dubai.

Meanwhile, another important member of the bowling attack appears to be under a cloud. Gabriel bowled only three overs on the second day. When asked about his status, Brathwaite said, “He had a slight niggle. So he wasn’t on the field for a majority of the day.” When asked if he was fine, Brathwaite replied, “I think so.”

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