Has the West Indian Cricket team turned the corner?
After West Indies 381 run defeat of England in four days in Barbados my immediate reaction was that “One swallow does not make a summer”. After all West Indies was rated no. 8 in the International Cricket Council test rankings. England was no. 3. West Indies had recently been subjected to defeats by Bangladesh and India. Most persons overwhelmingly expected that they would have been crushed despite England’s history of not over impressive performances in the West Indies. But then something seemed different. The nature of the defeat for one! When last did one of our batsmen score a double century? When last did we see a partnership over 100 runs much less 295? A number 8 batsman making a double century! It was as if we had gone back to the golden days of West Indies cricket.
Some argued that England had underrated the West Indies and suffered because of that. We awaited the Second test for England was bound to come back with vengeance. But then a 10- wicket defeat! Things seemed to be happening. So maybe the swallow was reminding us that summer was really here but in these days of climate change we have to wait. I heard it said that the West Indies had found form in Barbados and continued in Antigua. But it was more than form. There was a discipline that stood out. They have probably finally realised that cricket is more than T20.
I had over the past year been listening to Professor Hilary Beckles expressing confidence in the future of West Indies cricket. He had through the University of the West Indies provided a platform to launch a different West Indian team. This has taken the form of what is now known as the Sagicor UWI WICB High Performance Centre under the Faculty of Sports. Included are sports science laboratories, qualified coaches, video analysis technology with plans to introduce pitch preparation and turf maintenance. The Faculty of Sports extends to all campuses with academies of sport.
Beckles had moreover been consistently full of high praise for the leadership of Holder who is a UWI graduate.
There appears to be little doubt that Holder’s performance with bat, ball and overall leadership aided what we hope is a ‘turnaround’. Let us remember that West Indian spectators did not originally welcome his appointment as Captain. Many believed that he had difficulty even commanding a place on the team. We have to give credit to him for he persevered despite the criticism and is making a name even as a batsman at no. 8. What more can any cricket team want when it has a no. 8 batsman who can make a double century?
But what happened in both tests was much more than Holder. The discipline, resilience and confidence were obvious to critics. It is best seen with Darren Bravo’s batting in the second test. His was one of the slowest half centuries in test cricket. Granted Bravo was returning after a two-year layoff, so needed to try to re-establish himself. But it was much more. The pitch in Antigua was challenging and it was necessary under the circumstances, given the time left, that batsmen try to stay and build a score. Bravo is of course a stroke player but played the kind of innings under the circumstances that was needed.
Let us continue to track the swallow. Unfortunately, we go into the next test without the captain who has so far played such a critical role. The ICC overrate rule existed before the incident, but it has become obvious that the regulations need to be re-examined and adjusted where necessary.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian