Will-the-fortune

The West Indies cricket has been in the news in the recent times, and all for the wrong reasons. In May this year, it saw one of its legends getting dumped in an unceremonious manner when Shivnarine Chanderpaul was axed from the Test side. His axing left a bad taste as the 164-Test veteran was deprived of a shot at another legend and former team-mate Brian Lara’s record of most Test runs for the team from the Caribbean and more importantly, of a fitting farewell. Sometime later, team’s head coach Phil Simmons was sacked after he questioned non-selection of top players (read Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard) for the One-Day Internationals (ODIs). LIVE SCORECARD: Sri Lanka vs West Indies , 1st ODI match at Colombo

Then came the lowest point, when the team failed to qualify for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, scheduled to be played in England. It was disheartening news for the West Indies fans across the globe to see their team that has won the World Cup  ICC World T20 and Champions Trophy in the past, not playing in a major ICC event for the first time. As if the off-field issues weren’t disappointing enough, team’s shambolic on-field performance in the Tests against Sri Lanka rubbed salt into the wound.

The team did not put up a fight at all in the first Test at Galle and lost by an innings and six runs. Seniors like Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Denesh Ramdin and the skipper Jason Holder failed to step up and lead a young side. If the first Test raised serious questions on Chanderpaul’s non-selection, the second Test firmly established the fact how badly the champion batsman is being missed. The middle-order simply had no clue about Hearth and co.’s spin. Chasing 244 to win, the team was at one stage comfortably placed at 97 for 2, before getting bundled out for 171 and losing from a winning position.

With the Tests done and dusted, the team would be a bit relaxed, for it’s the time for the limited-overs leg of the series, a format they are pretty good at. Even without the services of star all-rounders Bravo and Pollard, the West Indies team looks good enough to put up a fight. The arrival of its limited-overs specialists Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Johnson Charles and Ravi Rampaul has boosted the sagging morale of the team.

The team gave a good account of its new-found confidence as well its ability in the shorter formats when they beat the Sri Lanka Board President’s XI in a One-Day tour match on Thursday. The same team that collapsed from winning positions in Test matches, recovered dramatically from 109 for 7 in that match. Its No. 8 and No. 9 — a reliable Andre Russell and the less heralded Carlos Braithwaite — added 193 for the eighth wicket in no time.

While Russell smacked 54-ball 89, Braithwaite was more brutal in his assault. The Barbadian all-rounder plundered 113 runs in 58 balls and stunned the Lankan side. His knock is a no-mean feat as it came against a Lankan attack that boasted of international players like Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Suraj Randiv, Isuru Udana and Binura Fernando.

This is a good sign for the West Indies going into the ODI series. The series also brings the mystery spinner Narine back into the spotlight. He has had issues with his action and hasn’t played for the West Indies for over a year now. He would want to put the entire episode behind and make a fresh start.  On the whole, the team looks good on paper and has got all its bases covered. What matters now is the on-field application. The team needs some solid performances from the talented individuals to inspire the entire unit. And lastly, it also needs some luck. West Indies would hope that the change of format changes its fortunes as well.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with Criclife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)