Captain Kraigg Brathwaite has pointed to Nkrumah Bonner and Kyle Mayers as the new talismen of the West Indies Test squad, and believes they embody the vibrant culture permeating the unit in recent months.
Bonner struck his maiden Test hundred and Mayers chipped in with a half-century, the pair sharing a critical hundred-run partnership as West Indies batted the entire final day to draw the opening Test against Sri Lanka in Antigua Thursday.
The performances followed on the heels of a successful tour of Bangladesh last month where Bonner averaged nearly 58 to be Man-of-the-Series and Mayers struck an unbeaten double hundred on debut.
“It shows that the guys have a lot of fight. Coming from Bangladesh, many times we batted over 90 overs,” Brathwaite said following Thursday’s final day at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium.
“I thought today we batted close to 90 overs again and that’s a positive and I think those guys are leading the way – Bonner and Kyle Mayers.
“Only in three games [in their careers] but they are setting the standard high and it’s for all the batsmen to follow – and the team.
“I think these are positive steps for West Indies cricket and once our attitude is right, the sky is the limit.”
Bonner made 31 in the first innings and followed up with an unbeaten 113 in the second, starting the day on 15 and defying the Sri Lankan bowlers in a chance-less innings, to reach the landmark just over an hour after tea.
He shared a 105-run, third wicket stand with Mayers who stroked 52 to follow up his first innings 45, and extend the prolific start to his fledgling Test career.
Set 375 for victory, West Indies finished on 236 for four after resuming from their overnight 34 for one, and Brathwaite said he was pleased with the outcome.
“We’re looking for wins to be honest [but] I’m satisfied in terms of going into the last day – we needed over 300 runs and they needed nine wickets,” he pointed out.
“So I am happy with the attitude we showed today and the discipline from Bonner. He played a remarkable innings but I know what he’s capable of. He has my full support.
“I was happy with the result coming into the last day needing over 300 runs. I’m happy we came away with a draw.”
West Indies had controlled the first two days of the encounter before Sri Lanka bit back on day three and four, piling up 476 in their second innings to put the home side under pressure.
But despite being kept in the field for nearly 150 overs, Brathwaite said his side never buckled and showed the resilience required even during those difficult moments.
“I think [Wednesday’s fourth] evening really summed it up for me,” the veteran opener explained.
“We had a tough time in the field. We fielded a lot of overs and after tea, Kemar Roach [led] the way, coming out with a positive attitude. Obviously he was tired [but] we got a breakthrough and from there that summed it up for me.
“In terms of the number of overs we had to field and we still had that attitude we wanted to do it for West Indies, I was quite pleased with that.”
He added: “I thought Kemar and Jason (Holder) they led the way with their discipline in terms of their lines and lengths. In the second innings we missed one or two chances – that will happen.”
West Indies take on Sri Lanka in the second Test starting Monday at the same venue, searching for a victory what would hand them their first series win over the Asian side in nearly two decades.
Brathwaite, in his first series as full-time captain, said discipline and attitude would again be critical to the home side’s performance.
“I just think we need to be disciplined in both innings because obviously you want to get 20 wickets,” he explained.
“So it’s just for us to go back to the drawing board and look at plans and how we could have done things a little differently and come out again with the same attitude because I am quite happy with the attitude we have as a unit and we just have to keep growing.
“We won’t always get wins but I’m happy that we came out into this last day with a draw. It really shows the fight this team has.”
He added: “I want the boys to get some good rest. It is important we get a good recovery in but coming out into the second game as a bowling unit it is [about] discipline, in between with some aggression.
“And it’s for the batters to have that attitude and have that determination like we showed today, like we showed in Bangladesh. I think those are key things.
“Test cricket won’t always be easy. It will be tough but that mindset [is important] and Bonner and Kyle Mayers are leading the way and we just have to follow.”