The Australians once again showed they are perhaps a season away from getting their number one ranking. True, the West Indies team is not the fearsome outfit they were in their heyday in the 70s till the mid 90s and the fact that players like Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine are not playing for them does make a difference to the strength of their team.
Gayle has just resolved his problems with the West Indies board, but is available only after his stint in the IPL finishes in late may. Sunil Narine would have made a huge difference because he is in his first year of international cricket and still has not come under the analytical gaze of the coaches and computer analysts.
More crucially the man who just couldn’t pick him, Matthew Wade, got a match turning century for Australia and in the process added more than 150 runs with the lower order batsman and changed the game in favour of Australia. This is a problem that a lot of team seem to have where they get the top order of the Australians reasonably cheaply, but find that one batsman along with the so called tail-enders add more runs than the first six wickets have done.
India had the problem in England as well as in Australia, especially in the first Test in Australia when the match was evenly poised. Narine could have helped West Indies wrap up the tail with his mystery deliveries, but he opted for the IPL despite not having played a Test match yet.
Shane Shillingford took his place and picked up ten wickets in the game and that perhaps tells us what a difference it would have made, if Narine also was there. Shillingford has come back after his action was questioned and he had to go for rehabilitation. He is back now with a modified action that seems to have passed the test.
Unfortunately, he had no support at the other end and with the West Indies batting not quite coming to the party, the Australians won the Test and with it the series too. Michael Clarke picked up five wickets in the second innings which clearly showed that another spinner would have made a big difference to the West Indies line-up.
In the Indian Premier League, Virender Sehwag has been batting with his usual abandon, but also with the realization, that if he bats for a dozen overs or so his team will get a big score. The Delhi team has been winning everything and are right at the top of the table, and look certain to be in the playoffs even if they stumble a bit in their last few games. The scramble for the last four has begun and this is where teams will feel the pressure and those teams that can ignore it and focus, will be able to prevail.
Shane Shillingford for his ten wicket haul is the CEAT International Cricketer of the Week. Professional Management Group