The Frank Worrell Trophy is settled for 2009. Australia 2, West Indies 0, with one draw. Sounds decisive on the surface of it, but the truth is that, for the two latter Tests at least, the Windies surpassed expectations. Australia played like a team hovering between third and fourth-best in the world.
Australia completed the three Test series without a single individual scoring a century. That can be seen as a sign of a strong ensemble effort, but I see it as a sign of a team already tired from having had no meaningful off-season break. The injury problems with their quick bowlers were infamous during the ODI tour of India in October-November. There has been no let up: Lee broke down before the Test series began (possibly for good), Hilfenhaus and Siddle during it. Bollinger enhanced his reputation when recalled from T2. He has now added the description "Aussie hothead" to his CV.
I wrote following August's loss of the Ashes my view that Ricky Ponting should bat for Australia under the captaincy of Michael Clarke. I stick to that view.
The West Indies were widely expected to cave in meekly in all three Tests. While this was the case in Brisbane, they successfully prevented Australia from winning at Adelaide, and came within a whisker of pulling it off themselves at Perth.
The West Indies, post-Stanford, post-WICB/WIPA dispute, post years of administrative incompetence, were inconsistent in their batting, and good - but not yet of the highest standard - in their bowling. Of their elder statesmen, Chanderpaul disappointed, Sarwan did so to the point that I believe he should be discarded for the time being. Chris Gayle, however, was the central character around whom the entire series seemed to revolve, and not necessarily for the better.
The Chris Gayle Persona evolved through the series from that of the reviled anti-captain to that of the mature backbone of an underexperienced team. Shane Watson paid the ultimate accolade to Gayle on Day Three at the WACA as only a five year-old truly can.
You could argue all day over the merits of Gayle to treat every trip to the batting crease like the start of another Twenty20 innings. Could it be that his first innings 72-ball 102 actually lost the Third Test because he didn't hang around long enough? The expectations we place upon genius...
Gayle has probably saved his bacon as West Indies Test captain for now, but I think the investment in Denesh Ramdin has to be made sooner or later.
Some final thoughts on Pertinent Matters Arising from the Third Test:
- Benn's suspension is a fair call, as is Johnson's fine. Haddin could have copped a stiffer fine or more.
- Watson, on the other hand, should not have been fined at all, rather he should have his act of stupidity replayed ad nauseum for the rest of his career. Maybe then in years to come we could debate the question: "Who looked sillier - Javed Miandad 1992 or Shane Watson 2009?"
- I am seriously unconvinced that the Umpires Decision Review System is good for the game. All it is proving so far is that human beings will make mistakes no matter how many tools they have at their disposal to stop them.