Edwards eyes further success
England are sure to test the mettle of West Indies’ inexperienced top order this summer, but may just discover their vice-captain is a tough nut to crack.
Kirk Edwards was elevated last month to be Darren Sammy’s deputy before the start of the three-Test series at home to Australia, and less than a year after marking his debut with a second-innings century.
The steely-eyed number three has added another hundred in his seven Tests to date at an average a shade above 50.
In an era when the West Indies - shorn of much of their first-choice talent by the lure of the Indian Premier League and other complications - are struggling to unearth a Test class batting line-up, Edwards’ figures stack up impressively.
The tourists, set to begin their campaign with a three-day match against Sussex at Hove tomorrow, cannot afford any self-inflicted damages from adventurous young batsmen against the swinging and seaming ball in conditions highly likely to favour England’s world-beating attack.
But as long as the laconic Edwards bats as he speaks, it is a safe bet there will be no such misjudgements from him.
“I don’t get caught up in all the stuff that’s going on around me. I just focus on what I have to do and go about it in my own way,” he said at the County Ground today, as he and his team-mates prepared to practise outside for the first time since arriving in England.
“It depends on what the team needs. Whatever the team wants, I try to go and get it. But if I don’t have control of my mind, I’m of less value to my team.”
Edwards, it seems, will be undaunted but not unprepared for the stern challenge ahead in three Tests, which start at Lord’s on May 17.
“Wherever you go is a test. Different places provide different challenges,” he said. “It’s just about adjusting to the conditions, and being tough mentally out there.
“England have built themselves into the number one team in the world - give credit to them for that. But whoever you play against, as a batsman, you have to play the ball; you’re not playing opposition, in that sense.
“My focus is on just that, getting into good positions and playing the cricket ball.”
Will he be taking care, above all, to leave well too?
Edwards is unimpressed with such ham-fisted inquiries and poor phrasing. But more importantly, he will not be pre-judging any of his innings or the bowlers he must face.
“That’s a strange question - you’re not going to leave the ball if it’s on the stumps,” he said.
“Batting is a reactive thing. Obviously, you have your batting plan in your mind. But you have to wait and see what the guys send down at you.”
The 27-year-old’s reason and strategy hint strongly at a batsman of substance, unlike perhaps some of his recent predecessors who have fleetingly demonstrated the shot-making prowess of West Indies yore - without any of the durability.
That, of course, is a charge no-one could ever lay at middle-order limpet Shivnarine Chanderpaul - who has scored a fair chunk of his 10,000-plus runs against England and, two tours back, was the one batsman they simply could not shift.
Chanderpaul’s best was not enough even then to keep the Windies competitive in England. But coach Ottis Gibson was at pains yesterday to stress the diminutive world number one batsman’s value to his team, not just in terms of runs but the advice he is prepared to impart as he enters the veteran stage.
That is a character trait Edwards has yet to identify, but he nonetheless holds Chanderpaul in high regard.
“Shiv’s a guy who, obviously if you go over, he’ll talk to you and give you some advice,” he said. “But he’s a bit ’in his head’, and that’s the strength of his game. I’m pretty much like that as well.
“Everybody’s experience with another person is going to be different. But he’s a guy I enjoy playing cricket with, and obviously I admire the way he goes about his work.
“So hats off to Shiv on achieving everything he has so far.”
Half as much from Edwards will make him a major asset to West Indies, and if he lets his bat do the talking this month and next England may have a battle on their hands after all.