West Indies cricket on the upswing; looks threatening after rattling the Aussies

The smiles are back”¦ West Indies is clearly re-emerging as a force to reckon with in international cricket and much credit has to go to captain Darren Sammy (above) © Getty Images

By Karthik Parimal

Enough has been spoken and written about West Indies’ decline from a position of supremacy they held a few decades ago. Not many saw the resurgence of this West Indian side in the immediate future, thanks to the constant bickering between its players and the administrators, as also the team’s lacklustre performances even against ordinary sides. But since the 2011 World Cup, the West Indians have certainly defied a few odds. Though they haven’t managed to win a major series yet, indications are that this side is ready to tread new paths.

 

The positive signs first came to light when the West Indies hosted a formidable Pakistani side 11 months ago. Despite the fact that the hosts lost the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series 2-3, they didn’t have many reasons to be disheartened. Their bowling unit was no longer fragile. They had unearthed quality spinners and seamers.  This was testified by Ravi Rampaul and Devendra Bishoo, whose tremendous spells in the first Test of that tour stunned the visitors as the West Indies pulled off an amazing 40-run victory. Although Pakistan replied with a resounding victory in the next Test, the West Indies took heart from the fact that their bowling which showed that it had the potential to move up the ladder.

 

A few months later, West Indies played host to India and gave the newly-crowned World Cup Champions a run for their money. They lost the first three ODIs quite heavily but gave India a dose of its own medicine in the remaining two games. The Test series was a sort of revelation for this West Indian side. Many expected a full-strength India to dominate, but the hosts certainly had different plans. Despite losing the first Test by just 63 runs, a relatively weak West Indies managed to draw the next two Tests against a star-studded Indian lineup. This performance must have instilled enormous amounts of confidence in the Darren Sammy-led West Indies.

 

Credit must be given to Sammy for the way he has handled this West Indian side. When no other player was ready to shoulder responsibility, Sammy stepped forward and has marshaled his resources well since then. His passion for the game is evident in the way he expresses his emotions on the field. There are many naturally gifted players in this current West Indian team, but Sammy’s hard work and determination sets him apart from the rest of them. He is ready to do the dirty work.

The recently-concluded ODI series against Australia speaks volumes about West Indies’ resurgence during recent times. This was the same Australian side that dominated the World Cup finalists just a month ago in the Commonwealth Bank (CB) series, but has now barely managed to draw the series against West Indies. Despite the loss in the first ODI, the West Indiesdisplayed tremendous character when they emphatically won the second, tied the third, and then completely outplayed the Australians in the fourth ODI. Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine stole the show, but Sammy’s contributions through it all must not be forgotten. His quickfire 84 almost snatched away the series from Australia. Sammy ended up as the highest run-getter after Pollard for West Indies in the series.

 

As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, Sunil Narine’s spin was going to be a litmus test for the Australians. The visitors proved that they aren’t proficient against spin and faltered more often than not. Narine and Kemar Roach were the chief destroyers, and the fact that West Indies’ bowling department performed exceptionally well in the absence of Ravi Rampaul augurs well for their future. Once Rampaul and Fidel Edwards return, the West Indian bowling lineup will undoubtedly be bolstered. These bowlers have proved their mettle in all conditions and they can only improve from this point forward.

 

However, their batting needs to perform more consistently. Batsmen like Darren Bravo, Adrian Barath at the top, and Andre Russell down the order, have justified their credentials with the bat. Also, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel in the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)-Chris Gayle standoff. It will be a shot in the arm for West Indies if Chris Gayle makes a comeback to the side as their batting unit will then be a force to reckon with.

 

West Indies has worked extremely hard until now and they deserve better moments henceforth. However, they must look not to self-destruct from here.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)