By Karthik Parimal
Despite being 0-2 down in the series, it was heartwarming to see West Indies’ resurgence in the ongoing third Test against England. This effort by the team is all the more praiseworthy because it has come in the absence of their chief protagonist Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Considering the fact that the West Indians have already lost the series, it appears as though each individual in this side is playing his natural game, mainly because there is no element of pressure involved. Moreover, verbal battles on and off the field seems to be firing up this unit like never before. Denesh Ramdin, Tino Best and Marlon Samuels are perfect examples of that.
Following West Indies’ horrendous batting in the second Test at Trent Bridge against England, Viv Richards lashed out at the team. He came down heavily on Ramdin: “He just looks out of sorts. When he first came into the game, I felt he was a huge prospect. For some reason, he has deteriorated in such a big way. Just the way he is walking back, he looks like a totally lost guy.”
Richards’ words did have a huge impact on Ramdin. He went on to score his second Test century and steered West Indies to a respectable total in this ongoing Test. However, the fact that he responded in a rather unusual manner after completing his century made more headlines. But despite that, one could clearly see how a little motivation, regardless of the source, can make a big difference in a player’s performance.
Marlon Samuels too was targeted by the English fielders every time he came in to bat. He played a decent knock in the opening Test. Thereafter, he dominated the proceedings in the first innings of the following Test by scoring a magnificent ton. The English bowlers tried desperately to get Samuels out during the second innings of that Test, but in vain. Finally, the only way they thought they could ruffle his feathers a little was by having a word or two with him, to which Samuels responded by saying “Shut up. I'm going to get back-to-back hundreds.” He remained unbeaten on 76 during that innings.
In the third Test, English bowler Graham Onions again tried to sledge Marlon Samuels. But the latter not only scored a handsome 76, he also had a few words for Onions. “Onions? Well, he has a few things to say. Give me back Jimmy Anderson. I don't like Onions. I don't use it in my food,” said Samuels.
The same was the case with Tino Best, who was making his comeback into the West Indian side after three long years. His previous Test innings in England ended rather comically. Andrew Flintoff, who was standing in the first slip, asked Tino to “Mind the windows”, to which Tino danced down the wicket and completely missed the ball, thereby being out stumped. That was three years ago. Recently, Flintoff again continued to taunt Tino, but this time on social-networking website Twitter. He was also sledged by the English bowlers in the ongoing third Test. But Tino let his game do the talking this time around. He scored a brilliant 95 batting at No.11 alongside Denesh Ramdin. He also became the first No.11 batsman to score a Test half-century against England since 1906. Thereafter, he dismissed Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen during England’s first innings.
Like mentioned before, verbal battles on and off the field seems to have inspired this West Indian unit. The intensity and aggression displayed by them in the current Test was definitely missing during the previous two Tests. Moreover, they have gelled together as a team. The way the entire team came out to applaud Tino’s and Ramdin’s effort during the first innings speaks volumes of their camaraderie. Also, skipper Darren Sammy’s dejected facial expression when Tino Best failed to get to his century shows how this team shares each other’s joys and failures.
West Indies, despite trailing in the current series, has improved tremendously as a unit. They have troubled the No.1 ranked Test side in the world in their own backyard, a feat very few teams can boast of. The results may not be there for everyone to see yet, but this is a side that can be a force to reckon with when motivated. They need a constant source of inspiration. They need to start winning more games.
They compete better in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) than in the Tests. Also, the return of Chris Gayle and the inclusion of big-hitters like Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell will be a huge boost. If they can trounce the English in the limited-overs version of the game, they are bound to grow in confidence. And they can use this confidence to grow in Tests. This West Indian side has shown a lot of promise. Now is the time to deliver.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. His zeal for writing and love for the sport of cricket is what has brought him here. Karthik can also be followed on Twitter)