"Right now they're 322, so I would say 350 at the most they will score."
- Kemar Roach, asked at the Day One post-stumps presser how many runs Australia would get in their first innings, as reported by Alex Brown, Cricinfo, 26.11.09
It's easy to dismiss the youthful exuberance of a 21 year-old cricketer on that fast-track escalator to international stardom, travelling so fast that there has been no time to extinguish his ability to speak for himself by mollifying him with "media skills". Kemar Roach can be forgiven. Australia was 322 for 5, but they are not a side whose tail begins at about number six. They made it to 480 for 8 before declaring when number ninester Nathan Hauritz reached fifty. More about that declaration in a tic. Roach didn't take a wicket on Friday.
No, I really have no problem with Kemar Roach saying something nonsensical to the media when he had nothing to say and shouldn't have been expected to say it. However, I do take exception when West Indian Test captain Chris Gayle continually disses Test cricket.
His downcast interview with Anna Kessel of The Guardian in May brought widespread condemnation, but the Ex Officio Salesperson-in-Chief for West Indies Cricket was at it again on Wednesday. This, again reported by Alex Brown of Cricinfo:
Speaking on the eve of the first Test against Australia - a match that is expected to draw a relatively meagre 40,000 spectators over the five days - Gayle said the recent decline in attendance figures showed many supporters concurred with his infamous assertion that he "wouldn't be so sad" if Test cricket were to perish.
"If you look at what's happening now, it's no secret," Gayle said. "At the same time we're always going to be committed to whatever cricket we play. I can't say 'Test cricket is going to die' and it just happens like that. It's just how things have been progressing the last couple of months. Spectators haven't turned out. They're more drawn to the coloured clothing at this point in time."
A few numbers on the decline of Test cricket. This Test match at the Gabba has attracted a crowd of 14774 on the opening day. The attendance for the Day One of the Gabba Test against New Zealand last year: 12498. Day Two: 12088 this year versus 11886 last year. Granted, the Gabba's capacity is in the high thirty thousands, but how many venues around the world would see a five-figure attendance on a week day of a Test match?
Before this Test, Gayle's record in 15 Tests as captain is 3 wins, 5 losses, 5 drawn (source: Statsguru). Those numbers aren't oo bad considering the Windies' recent history, and do include one major upset against South Africa. He may clearly be lacking in the professionalism expected as the designated media spokesperson, but is he the best man for the job of captaining the struggling and beleagured West Indies?
One would have to wonder about the tactics of both captains in the half-hour or so before tea. Ponting gave a rather surprising declaration with the total at 480 as soon as Nathan Hauritz brought up his fifty. Such an odd total at which to declare... why not bat on till tea and get 500-plus? The logic apparently was to give the bowlers a handful of overs to attack the Windies openers before the tea break. Outcome? At tea, West Indies 41/0 from six overs, Gayle 27.
After tea, Gayle was out for 31 from 43 balls leg before wicket. End of a Twenty-20 cameo chasing 480 in a Test match. By stumps, the West Indies were 134 for 5. Nice leadership, Chris.
Who would you have leading the Windies? Ian Chappell suggested on Friday that it should be Daren Ganga, who has not played Test cricket since January 2008, though he did lead Trinidad and Tobago to an unexpected Champions League T20 final last month, and to a President's Cup regional one-day title three weeks ago.
Ganga has recently given his own criticism of the West Indian cricket setup. Of course, he (a) has no current position within the team structure, (b) was being constructive, unlike Gayle, and (c) he's mainly correct.
Denesh Ramdin anyone? Or shall we hand the reins straight to Kemar Nostradamus Roach?
Video highlights of Day Two from cricketaustralia.tv follow: