Look who is back among runs © Getty Images
Look who is back among runs © Getty Images

There is no exaggeration in saying that if a graph is prepared on Monday, comparing which Test cricket team has most followers, there could be a massive spike for West Indies. The spike may last a day, or maybe for just a few hours. But if the Caribbean team acknowledges the fact that there will be many rooting for them on the final day of the first Test against Pakistan for an upset of sorts, they will certainly find enough confidence and fuel to make the remaining 251 runs and create history at Dubai. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Pakistan vs West Indies, 1st Test at Dubai

Yes, the West Indies are actually chasing history. A cricketing powerhouse of yesteryears that has been floating like a lost log of wood in the stream called Test cricket has not exactly done anything worth noticing of late. Their last victory in Test cricket came in 2015 – a year in which they played as many as 10 Tests and lost 8. It was against England when they discovered slight amount of determination and firepower within to fight. After forcing a draw in the first Test and being hammered in the second by 9 wickets, the Caribbean cricket team bounced back in the third and final Test to stun England by 5 wickets. Mind it, West Indies can spring surprise, leaving their opposition bemused what just happened.

For far too long, the West Indies have been at the receiving end in Test cricket. Their fortunes have turned bad so drastically, that there are calls within the cricket fraternity to start terming them as one of the ‘minnows’. After all, no team has played Test cricket as badly as the West Indies have, and their constant fall has been in the eye of the world only because they used to rule the roost at a certain point of time in cricket history.

The only constant is change, as they say. Today, all that West Indies are left with is a rich cricketing legacy, which stopped inspiring young men to take up cricket as their profession. There are many ‘bits and pieces’ players, and among the directionless mob that is there in the Caribbean in form of Test cricketers, there are a handful of specialists. But then, have not Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels, in specific, disappointed for a very long time?

On Monday, when West Indies will take field on the fifth and final day of their first-ever day-night Test with the pink cricket ball, they will have a chance of making history. The foundation has been laid strongly by at least three of the four batsmen who have batted in their second innings so far. Kraigg Brathwaite was unfortunate for not converting his start into an innings of some significance, but Leon Johnson and Bravo – who has finally started making runs – showed their teammates that achieving the target is a possibility if they are ready to give it all. And then, the memories of what West Indies inflicted upon India at Kingston in August 2016 will still be fresh.

And West Indies will be required to give their all. A team that has clambered consistently on most decent of batting wickets has finally showed, in this Test, and there is some amount of intent, however miniscule, to turn things around. With Pakistan declaring at 579 runs in their first innings, many would have brushed aside this contest thinking that the stage was set for the Asian team to inflict a massive innings defeat. But Devendra Bishoo’s freakish spell brought them back from the gallows, and a robust start has raised a few hopes.

But then, there is no need to get to extremes thinking where West Indies have placed themselves in this Test. If Pakistan can get bowled out for 123 despite not losing more than 3 wickets in their first innings, then West Indies too face the danger of being shot down. But it is about the intent, once again, however small, that the Caribbean batsmen have shown so far in this Test.

The Pakistani bowlers will be slightly disappointed for not having exerted enough pressure on the frail Caribbean batsmen, who knocked off about close to a hundred runs from the target the hosts have set. The pitch remains conducive for batting, and with a great deal of play will be under lights, the threat from the Pakistani pacers can be put aside. But this still does not give any breathing room to West Indies, who will have to face a lot of Yasir Shah on the final day.

When the play will resume at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Monday, West Indies will have two of their best batsmen resuming at 95 for 2. Samuels and Bravo have for long remained their best in batting, but they have not delivered as much as they would have liked. But if the two are able to see off a large chunk of the first session, it will be enough for West Indies to draw inspiration that they can rob Pakistan of a win, like they did to India a few months ago at Kingston.

This is again, no exaggeration, that it will be Pakistan who will have their backs on the wall and not West Indies. For West Indies, there is nothing to lose; they have been in the bottom for long enough that it might have stopped mattering to them. If West Indies lose, the maximum it will be said is that they went down fighting. But if a team that is involved in an intense battle for the top spot in Test cricket with its arch-rivals loses, there will be some questions asked.

And these questions will largely be based around the Pakistani approach with the bat in the second innings, wherein they went outrageously aggressive, and did not stop hitting out till the last man was down. But isn’t it that Pakistan, who have set towering examples of hitting lows immediately after shocking highs, are becoming consistent with it?

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)