Barath, like the rest of West Indies’ top four, has struggled to deal with England’s seam attack in the first two Tests, but feels the team have shown signs of improvement and now just need to maintain their performance over a whole game in order to win tangible rewards for their progress. England have already secured the three-Test series with victories in the first two Tests at Lord’s and Trent Bridge.
Barath has a point, though. Several times in recent Tests, West Indies have earned a position from which they might have gone on to win. Against India in Delhi – where India eventually won by five wickets – and against Australia in Bridgetown – where Australia won by three wickets – West Indies held the advantage after each side’s first innings. Similarly, when England slumped to 57 for 4 chasing 191 to win in the first Test of the series at Lord’s, West Indies had a wonderful opportunity to clinch a rare victory. On each occasion, however, one poor session has cost West Indies dear and allowed their opponents back into the game.
“We are getting ourselves into positions to win Tests over the last couple of months,” Barath said. “Where we need to move forward in our cricket is carrying on for five days. Sometimes we dominate the game for three days, but then we mess up in one session. That’s the mindset we’re working upon. That is what Test cricket is all about. It’s not a couple of hours; it’s over the course of five days. You have to be on the money every day, every hour, every over.
“It’s important, having not had any wins in the series so far, that we finish well in this last Test. There is a lot at stake. The pride of West Indies’ cricket has been showing some signs of improvement for the last couple of months. It’s about getting a Test win; getting a win against England. It’s definitely nothing impossible for us. We showed at Lord’s where we got those early wickets. If we had carried on getting wickets anything would have been possible. We’re really looking forward to getting a win here and bringing some pride to the West Indies.”
The tourists have strengthened their squad in recent days with the call-up of spinner Sunil Narine. While it is asking a great deal of Narine, a man with only six first-class games behind him, to come into the team for a Test debut after only a few days’ acclimatisation, West Indies may well feel they have little to lose and that ‘mystery’ spin is England’s Achilles heel. Narine looked some way below his best in the nets at Edgbaston on Tuesday and it would remain something of a surprise if he displaced Shane Shillingford, a man who took a ten-wicket haul against Australia only two Tests ago. But Narine’s record – both in his limited first-class career and as arguably the leading bowler in the recent IPL season – is nothing short of exceptional. In those six first-class games he has claimed five five-wicket hauls and, in his last three, he has claimed 31 wickets at an average of under 10.
Barath, a fellow Trinidadian, knows Narine’s game as well as anyone and feels he has what it takes to be a success at Test level.
“He has the ability to be a world-class bowler,” Barath said. “What is good about him is that he is humble and he is always trying to figure out ways to improve and develop new deliveries. Everyone is looking at him on TV, doing their homework and trying to pick him. But he is always working on a new type of delivery. He is always developing something. A spinner of his capabilities will adjust his pace and flight to the conditions.
“Everyone has seen him in T20 and he’s obviously made a name for himself even before he’s played a Test. But I’ve played a couple of first-class matches with him this season and it wasn’t easy. Most of the batsmen were really guessing and just sticking their bat out. I was fielding at bat-pad and I had a lot of catches there. It was not easy. Obviously the conditions are different – the ball doesn’t turn as much in England – but by the fourth and fifth day any good spinner will extract spin.”
Barath also admitted to some feelings of relief in the omission of James Anderson from the England team. While Anderson’s series averages are relatively modest – he has claimed nine wickets at an average of 26.88 – he has beaten the bat often and proved particularly dangerous with the new ball.
“Any opener would say the same,” Barath said, admitting his delight at Anderson’s absence. “He’s bowled well. He is deservedly England’s cricketer of the year. There is no doubt in that when you face him. At Lord’s he was swinging the ball all over the place – both ways – and bowling the best deliveries, but just not hitting the edge. Broad took seven wickets but Anderson looked like he was the one who would have taken seven wickets. He was unlucky.”
Barath also welcomed the return of Chris Gayle to the West Indies limited-overs side. While Gayle’s return came, arguably, at his expense, Barath appeared genuinely excited about the depth of West Indies squad.
“He’s been in the set-up for years and everyone has respect for Chris,” Barath said. “It’s great to have him back and he’ll lend experience to our players.
“Having Chris in our team makes it really solid. The depth in our batting – with Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy, Darren and Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Andrew Russell – mean that once we get it right at the top of the order and we get going in the Powerplay it would be difficult to say how could we not chase a big score. Or set one. So once we get it right, we have a good ODI team.”