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Finally A New Dawn For The West Indies?
Ignored by the controversy surrounding India’s decision to call off a Test Match needing 86 runs off 90 balls was the steady improvement of their counterparts. Since losing the 2-1 series against Australia in 1995, the West Indies have spectacularly fallen from their position at the pinnacle of world cricket. Players like Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall and Sir Viv Richards (to name a few) retired during the five-year period, devastating the younger team in the long run.
But are we finally witnessing a renaissance in one of the most historically interesting sides of world cricket?
First, here’s a comparison of West Indies’ performance in the Test series before and after Australia’s defeat:
1980-1994: played 29, won 20, drawn 9, lost 0
1995–present: played 50, won 13, drawn 7, lost 30
NOTE: Just looking at these stats shows how exceptional the West Indies team was in the 1980s and early 1990s. A potential future article could be their comparison and the actions of the Australian side that took away the mantle of “the greatest cricketing side in the world”.
Now let’s look at the performances of the other West Indies side:
1995-2003: played 25, won 10, drawn 2, lost 13
2004-present: played 25, won 3, drawn 5, lost 17
When you consider that those 3 wins came against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and an England side still reeling from the Pietersen-Moores debacle, it compounds the stunning collapse of a great cricketing nation.
This barren spell for the Windies includes limes to South Africa, Australia and England and even the ignominy of a 2-0 defeat at home to Bangladesh in 2009.
However, under Darren Sammy, they suddenly sprouted shoots of life, boasting an array of exciting young talent teaming up with some more experienced fighters. Of course, we’ve been down this road before with the West Indies. Who could forget Dwayne Smith and his 93-ball hundred on Test debut against South Africa. One of the most naturally gifted batsmen in terms of the ability to see and hit the ball, Smith averaged 16.22 in 77 ODIs for West Indies.
NOTE: In comparison, in 201 ODIs, Brett Lee averaged 16.25 runs with his 349 wickets. I know who I’d rather have on my side.
Even now we are still treated to the occasional exciting innings from Kieron Pollard – the man who saw fit to bid $750,000 to 4 IPL franchises (I wonder for cricket or marketing reasons?). Yet Pollard has managed only 4 50s in 42 ODIs so far and has a T20 average of 12.33. Hardly something to keep fast bowlers up at night.
But now the Windies have introduced a core of youngsters who are starting to perform consistently for them rather than holding onto their place in the team on untapped potential. Among them is Darren Bravo, the half-brother of teammate Dwayne, who has drawn comparisons to the none other than the great Brian Lara (his second cousin, by the way). For a left-handed batsman who plays in a similar style to the Trinidadian legend, this is high praise given his failure to score a century in Tests or ODIs so far. Plus, you only have to look at the number of Brazilian and Argentinian footballers being tipped as the next Pele or Maradona to see the pressure this can put on a young man. However, averaging 40 and 33 in their respective forms is an encouraging start for the 22-year-old, who still has time on his side.
Kemar Roach is another who was called up to the team at just 19 and impressed the critics. Capable of bowling at speeds of up to 93 mph, Roach made his international debut in a T20 match against Australia in 2008, having previously only played in 4 first-class matches. He finished with best figures of 2/29 signaling his huge potential. Roach has so far averaged under 30 with the ball in all forms of cricket. More impressively, he led an inexperienced Windies attack in Australia in 2009 and won praise from the likes of Ricky Ponting and Ian Chappell as a star of the future. Roach was also man of the series the following year in Sri Lanka – a country known for providing slow and dusty pitches that are not helpful to fast bowlers. A hat-trick against the Netherlands at this year’s World Cup helped him on his way to a career-best 27.6.
Devendra Bishoo and Kirk Edwards have recently become regulars in both formats. Bishoo. a leg-spinner, he impressed many with his attacking style of bowling and became regarded as one of the Windies’ main wicket-takers. His post-match interviews are even more entertaining! Edwards recently scored a dogged 110 against India on his Test debut to help tie the match: he showed a great deal of grit and determination in his innings.
Add to these young players veteran performers like Shivnarine Chanderpaul (who is still going strong at 36, judging by his recent century against India), Dwayne Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan, and there is a core group of players that will represent an exciting new beginning. Caribbean.
Despite this, questions still surround the team. Controversy surrounding the long-running feud between former captain Chris Gayle and the West Indies Cricket Board has long overshadowed their recent successes (see their summary here). The saga actually underscores the lack of professionalism still inherent in the Windies administration, still seething from the 2009 pay disputes.
Furthermore, there are still question marks surrounding captain Darren Sammy’s place in the side. The captain has failed to justify his selection as an all-rounder keeping Kemar Roach out, with a string of poor performances with the bat overshadowing his modest success with the ball. However, a recent interview with CricInfo highlighted Sammy’s determination to inculcate a professional ethos, high levels of fitness and greater exposure to young talent to boost his team.
Sammy has stated that his aim is to make the top 5 with the West Indies by 2015. After years of simply selecting their best player for the captaincy role, perhaps England’s approach favored leadership over talent (Hussain, Atherton, Vaughan and Cook in ODIs ) may turn out to be the right one to point this proud cricketing nation in the right direction.
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