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Like many places, Sabina Park has spawned countless folklore of breathtaking heroics and acrimonious rivalry. Also, the newer grounds like Beausejour are fresh slates waiting for newfound heroes to make their mark.

A Sense of Place - Sabina Park and Beausejour

Published: 26th April, 2004

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Like many places, Sabina Park has spawned countless folklore of breathtaking heroics and acrimonious rivalry. Also, the newer grounds like Beausejour are fresh slates waiting for newfound heroes to make their mark.

Ever since its inaugural match in 1930, Sabina Park has perpetuated stories of a lively Caribbean pitch reinforced by an equally exuberant crowd. 74 years of test cricket, Sober’s 365 and many other innings by batsmen of all hues have confirmed that it is a place for big innings. On a darker note, the confluence of the pitch and bowlers like Holding, have also penned sobering phrases: The” Death Strip”, “Whispering Death” and the ever so blunt “minefield”, to portray a pitch that could crush any batsman’s hopes. Not surprisingly, witnessing half of his team in bandages after the first test in 1976, Bedi, the Indian skipper, solemnly admitted that hope was dim after losing the toss in a lively wicket.

It was not only the pitch and certainly not the crowd. But crucially, the inherent lethality of a long lost West Indian pace attack. As Gavaskar had put it, “the West Indian technique was simple - mix a beamer with two-three bouncers in an over. Then, having shaken the batsman's confidence, produce a fast straight yorker to go through his defence.

That was yesterday. Today, matters have simmered down and a bit too much for West Indian cricket. So much that according to pundit reports we will not see the “minefield” that was Sabina, on a fateful day in June 1998, when it became the venue for the shortest test of all time. Sadly, to the horror of diehard Windies fans, this touchdown was confirmed when Harmison had the audacity to take 7/12, the best bowling figure in Sabina, in a pitch that hosted Walsh’s 500th wicket.

Traveling not too far back in time, specifically to St Lucia, in June 2003, Beausejour became the 8the Caribbean test venue. It was in this Beausejour where Lara and off-spinner Murali orchestrated a fascinating duel between bat and ball, the highlight and the main eye feast of that match. Murali picked up wickets with figures of five for 138, but could not crack Lara. With his fine-tuned set of skills to deal with pesky spinners, Lara thrived in a pitch where his teammates desperately struggled. At the close of play, Beausejour did not offer any kind of assistance to lesser bowlers but instead displayed the weaknesses of West Indies bowling.

Beausejour is the future. And it is important. Not only a solid candidate for regular test matches but quite possibly a venue for the next World cup. The grass outfield, the pitch and stands have all been prepared with such methodology and scientific zeal that golf gurus would salivate. In short, it is a modern ground that nevertheless will still pose a slight dilemma for our selectors.

From the domestic Busta Cup teams to the international outfits, many coaches have curiously persisted with all sorts of spinners in this ground. Still few clues remain as to how the pitch will behave for us on the day. Do we rely heavily on left-arm spinners and off-spinners? No. With or without the right conditions, Rafique will harvest wickets, but interestingly, and judging from the success of Collymore, we should probe the abilities of our medium pacers. Especially those who are adept at good line and length.

The Caribbean pitches stubbornly clings on to its fondness for batsmen. However, we should not come to praise and stand in awe of history but to win . And to win in both these grounds we need herculean batsmen. For our team, the bottom line is that anything under 250 in both these grounds will not suffice. There are no matchwinners in the mould of Holdings or a Gavaskar but we do have a fledgling team that is learning and clinging to the art of “attrition”. It is a key lesson and when the going gets tough Bangladesh will need a few dogged batsmen to tame the spectre of a Caribbean pitch.

 

About the author(s): G. M. Bashar is a BanglaCricket supermoderator who is known as "oracle". He is a prolific contributor to our collection of fine articles. In addition to his obvious interest in cricket, he also has a keen desire to be our own version of David Frost - exemplified by the large number of interviews he has taken of key Bangladesh cricket personalities.

 

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