Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Congratulations West Indies

Yesterday at Windsor Park, Dominica, the West Indies pulled off one of the great escapes of recent times. Having started the day 81 ahead with just four wickets in hand and 97 overs left against the world's No.1 team, they were dead and buried baring a miracle. And indeed a miracle was what they conjured up.

Many would say that India played too safe, that it was an under-strength Indian team and that there was time lost to rain. All of that is true, but also consider this: this was the world's No.7 side against the No.1 team, a team that had just one series win against quality opposition since 2002 and one that had suffered the indignity of a whitewash countless times over the last dozen years or so, a side that had two misfiring openers and a non-performing veteran in its middle order. To add to it all, there were poor umpiring decisions that went against the hosts.

The number of setbacks would have surely broken the will of most West Indian sides of post-95 vintage. Carribean sides from the recent past have fallen apart with much less reason. This team stuck to its job manfully, restricting India to under 350 on a good batting surface despite being reduced to three bowlers. For that matter, the West Indians ran a close second in the first test- the only game in the series that produced a result.

All considered, the West Indies took several positives out of the series. In Bishoo and Rampaul, they have two spirited bowlers with considerable promise. Once Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach will be available, West Indies will have a pretty potent attack. On the batting front, Kirk Edwards showed that he has the character required at the highest level, even if his technique needs some fine tuning. Darren Bravo possesses the talent to play at the highest level, if not the application. Marlon Samuels applied himself brilliantly in Barbados and might have done far better but for some poor umpiring at Dominica.

Most importantly, the West Indians showed the character and the pride to fight it out. For perhaps the first time since I started following the game in the mid 90s, they played like a team. There was no tame surrender, the likes of which one has come to expect of them. There may be no extraordinary players in that team, but there is a bunch of committed individuals.

The greatest concern for the West Indies right now is the opening. If the WICB can somehow persuade Chris Gayle to come back and give his best to the team, it is just a matter of time before the West Indies becomes a very competitive team. While they have taken baby steps towards improvement until now, they took a much bigger stride this summer- not a giant stride, but a decisive stride nonetheless. To draw 1-1 with a competitive Pakistani unit and lose 0-1 to the world's No.1 side in a series where they made their guests work much harder than they would have bargained for is no mean achievement for a side at the bottom of the pile.

The challenge for the immediate future is to build on the positives and ensure that unlike countless occasions in the recent past, this one too is not squandered away. The first step is always the most difficult one to take and this summer, West Indies have done just that. Its time the players and the administration got together to ensure that they keep up the good work.

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