Stuart Law, West Indies’ head coach, has backed his players to give a better account of themselves in the second Investec Test, after their innings defeat at Edgbaston led to a barrage of criticism from former players and pundits, questioning everything from the team’s commitment and desire to their status as a top-level Test nation.
Foremost among them was Curtly Ambrose, a former great who has also previously served as West Indies’ bowling coach. Writing in a column for the Daily Mail, Ambrose called the performance “embarrassing” and “painful to watch”. Law said he would have preferred Ambrose to talk to the players in person but admitted they knew they have to play better in the remaining two Tests.
“That is disappointing,” Law said. “Curtly not long ago was a coach with this team so it is disappointing that criticism comes. We have to understand why it is there. We are not performing as well as we want. It would have been nice if he had come into the dressing room to talk to the guys and express his displeasure to us. That would have been awesome but that didn’t happen. What can we do? We have to get our noses down, our backsides up and play better.”
West Indies have not won a Test in England since 2000 and Law faces the difficult task of lifting his players after being crushed inside three days. While suggesting that West Indies had faced the worst of the conditions under lights in Birmingham, he said that it was the job of the coaching staff to try and get the best out of a group that lacks English knowhow.
“We did not play well,” he said. “We have been very honest with our assessment. A lot of guys have been asked to look at themselves in the mirror by the captain. We have been very open and forthcoming with thoughts on how they can get better and we are trying our very best to get it right in a short space of time. We are giving them every ounce of support. These guys have got a lot of talent. They just need a bit of experience. Once they get that they will be pretty good.
“From 40 degrees in Barbados to 13 degrees in Birmingham – I would be walking around freezing my nuts off as well, with my hands in my pockets. Poor kids are freezing. Fielding at night time in England is not pleasurable and when it is overcast with mizzly rain it is even worse so, yes, once again people say it is an excuse but it is a fact. People were sat in the crowd with tank tops on and we were looking for more jumpers to put on over the three we already had on.
“We have addressed our fielding. We know it is an attitude thing, not a skill level thing. Our attitude needs to improve for the duration of time we are out there. We have spoken about everything we possibly can. Once the players take the field we can’t do it for them. We have to give them every support to make sure they are doing it.”
In a nod to the criticism of West Indies’ batting after they lost 19 wickets in a day, Law referred to Australia’s struggles at Trent Bridge during the 2015 Ashes. “These young kids are learning in the toughest cricket arena in the world,” he said. “International cricket’s pretty tough and in this part of the world, when you are playing against an experienced England side, it’s even tougher. Australia came here a couple of years ago, got bowled out for 60, so we’re not going too bad.”
Jason Holder, the captain, said in the wake of defeat at Edgbaston that his players needed to show more fight and Law was able to point to the experience of rallying to beat Pakistan in Bridgetown earlier this year. He also had praise for the performance of Jermaine Blackwood, whose first-innings 79 not out was a rare bright spot amid the pink-ball pummelling, describing him as “5ft 2in but he walks around like he is 10ft tall” – the sort of swagger that has been missing from West Indies’ Test cricket for some time.
“We sat down and we talked about our Test series against Pakistan,” Law said. “We got beaten in two-and-a-half days in Jamaica and came back and won the second Test. We played the same team, they played the same team and our boys stood up. Now we have had a look and seen what England are trying to do to us, we will have better knowledge going into it. We know what is coming, it is a matter of us finding a way to cope with it.
“In dressing room we are very positive. I believe in these young men. They have got high skills. It is just the experience of learning how to play in a very tough environment. That is where we need to improve very quickly but that is going to take time. The criticism will come. I understand that. We can’t do much about it. We have to just blank it out, move forward and once we start putting things right on the field that criticism means nothing to us.” (ESPNCricinfo)