When Craig McDermott was steaming in to bowl during his playing days in the West Indies, pace was all the rage in the Caribbean.
Wickets in the Caribbean were regularly fast bowlers’ dreams, as the home team’s legendary arsenal of quicks including Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose revelled on spicy decks.
Fast forward 20 years and the spice is largely gone, replaced by slow and low wickets where spin is often the biggest weapon.
Sadly for Australia’s fast bowlers, the last time they faced similar conditions, in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan, they were found wanting.
Australia’s quicks took 10 wickets in the two Test series at an average of 64.6, with Mitchell Johnson’s six wickets at 29.50 doing a lot to boost those numbers.
Now the country’s bowling coach, McDermott acknowledges lessons were learnt in the disappointing effort against Pakistan, lessons that must now be applied in the Caribbean for the two Tests ahead.
“We were probably a little bit off the pace as far as our patience and that sort of stuff,” McDermott said.
“And we were pretty aggressive with our fields all the time whereas Pakistan weren’t.
“I think we’ve learnt some things from that point of view as well.
“The ball will swing naturally here more than what it did in the UAE (when) we had to try to smash it up and then it still didn’t really reverse much.
“So we’re pretty well set from an attack point of view here.”
Johnson isn’t playing in the three-day tour match starting on Wednesday in Antigua after arriving late in the Caribbean due to his Indian Premier League commitments.
Mitchell Starc only arrived in Antigua on Tuesday and also isn’t playing against the West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI.
McDermott says he’s comfortable Johnson in particular will be ready to go without any match practice for the first Test in Dominica starting on June 3.
“I don’t have any problem with that,” he said.
“He’s been bowling enough, he’s been bowling well enough.
“Getting whacked over the fence bowling a good ball in T20 cricket, that’s a different kettle of fish.
“We’re playing Test cricket now. It’s about us creating pressure, taking our catches and obviously scoring some runs.”
McDermott is also excited to see how Mitchell Marsh bowls in this week’s tour game, after spending time working with the all-rounder in the recent break following the World Cup.
Marsh went wicketless in both Tests in the UAE but McDermott thinks he could play a key role in the Caribbean.
“Certainly the past three or four weeks at the Centre of Excellence he increased his running speed and his arm path, the way he delivers the ball,” McDermott said.
“He’s picked up some pace and he’s swinging the ball, which he hasn’t really done since he’s been playing for Australia.
“We want to him to bowl as many overs as he possibly can as an all-rounder and obviously if he’s got his speed up there to, I think he’s capable of being able to bowl consistently mid 130s to high 130s.
“Now he’s got his confidence back in his body we can keep him there.”
AUSTRALIA’S SLOW PITCH NIGHTMARE – How the quicks fared in the UAE against Pakistan
Mitchell Johnson – 6 wickets at 29.50
Mitchell Starc – 2 wickets at 71 (One Test only)
Peter Siddle – 2 wickets at 108.5
Mitchell Marsh – No wickets, 110 runs conceded
Total: 10 wickets at 64.6