Fear of failure and fear of bravery caused the West Indies to be humiliated on the opening day of the 1st Test at the Wanderers on Friday. Their historical mistrust of spinners – particularly exotic spinners – is a phobia they share with South Africans but at least Paul Adams features regularly in the South African squad.
The West Indies also have a left arm chinaman bowler, and he is equally exciting as our Gogga. Dave Mohammed wasn’t picked in the original squad but was summoned immediately when Omari Banks returned to the Caribbean with stress fracture of the back.
What was the point? If he wasn’t going to play on a hard, dry and bouncy Wanderers pitch, where will he play? The answer is simple: he won’t. At least, not until it’s too late.
Spinners relish hard surfaces because it is not spin that earns the majority of their wickets but bounce. If Mohammed didn’t have talent he wouldn’t have been picked in the first place. So why pick him if you don’t have the courage to play him.
“They weren’t brave enough,” said radio commentator Fazeer Mohammed before a ball was bowled in the Test. “West Indies cricket is at a delicate stage right now. They’d rather rely on what they know, which is pace, than what they don’t know, which is spin. Of course Mohammed should have played but it was just seen as too much of a gamble.”
On a lighter note, Herschelle Gibbs might regret his own conservative approach to the first Test. The balance between attack and defence is so difficult to judge that it’s probably only found by accident, but Herschelle’s determination to cash in on a beautiful wicket led to him playing a game so inhibited that he didn’t even look like himself.
In retrospect he knows he could have murdered an attack as weak as he has ever faced in international cricket, but he didn’t want to ‘throw it away’. Graeme Smith, on the other hand, backed his ability to rise above the skills of the bowlers and had a century to show for it at the end of play.
If Gibbs had not been so cautious he might have been 170 not out. But if the West Indies had not been so cautious South Africa might have been 280-5. There is no place for caution in modern cricket. Long live caution.
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