Tony Becca | Windies eyes are smiling
The history of West Indies cricket is rich and glorious, especially when we hear the echoes of Lord’s in 1950 and that wonderful summer, of the years surrounding 1965, and of the all-conquering march from the late 1970s, through the 1980s, and into the 1990s. It is even as wonderful when you hear the roll call of champions of the recent past. Some, however, may say that such greatness could not last, and that the West Indies should be grateful and thankful for all those memorable moments and great players while waiting for the renaissance, and, without a doubt, that is true. On the other hand, however, some may say, including me, that the wait is too long, far too long, and that from 1950, 1965, and the 1980s, is a long time to wait. does not matter And the hurtful part is that nothing seems to be happening, or is being done about it. It seems that it does not matter that a team which was once, or twice, so great, and for so long so invincible, is down at the bottom, mixing with the likes of Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and now Ireland and Afghanistan. And what is hurting even more is that while other teams will come along and, therefore, one cannot expect to be the best, or among the best, all the time, it has been this way for some 20 years with no change, neither up nor down, and mostly down. What is heard from time to time from those who are in charge is that we have “turned the corner” or we are “turning the corner” when all that we have been doing, apart from firing a shot here and there, is getting dizzy going around and round the roundabout. And what is heard from captains, coaches, and sometimes managers is excuse after excuse, nothing but words upon words, while they talk about “going back to the drawing board”, “players not pulling their weight”, “players not committed”, “players needing to show more responsibility”, “we did not make enough runs”, “we need more consistency in our bowling”, and “the players are not fit enough”. Since Thursday, however, from last Sunday to Thursday, to be exact, the mood has changed as West Indians from all over, at home and abroad, men, women, and children, exuded pride and happiness at West Indies’ brilliance in the sunshine of Barbados. After fumbling, slipping, and falling in the raindrops at Sabina Park a week or so before, an apparently inspired West Indies team went to Kensington Oval, once known as the “Lion’s Den” because of its fiery surface and many victories for West Indies, and preened themselves for all to see. After losing the first Test by seven wickets, and with many expecting them to fold again in Kensington Oval, the West Indies stood up, beat their chests, surprised Pakistan, and flogged them by 106 runs. Lowest total ever And it was not supposed to be, not really, and, at least, not after Pakistan had been left a winning target of 188 runs to win very early on the final day and despite the state of the deteriorating pitch. Bowling, and fielding, like men inspired, however, West Indies charged in, gave everything they had, and Pakistan were stunned and were humbled for the joint lowest total ever at the Oval when they were cut down one hour or so after lunch for a measly 81 runs in 34.4 overs. Finding a pitch which, probably, much to their regret before the final day, and on the evidence of the television screen, was unusually dry and powdery at the start of play and later on offering inconsistent bounce from the number of cracks around, the West Indies buckled down to business, played like how one is expected to play in a Test match, and although they appeared behind the eighth ball for most of the match, came back with a bang to win it in a thrilling, exciting, and dramatic finish. A number of the batting faults was still evident in some of the batsmen, especially the two newcomers; there were too many no-balls in the first innings, and a few catches were dropped, but when one looked at their overall commitment, they were super ambassadors, from start to finish. Roston Chase, playing copybook strokes as he did again India last year, once against stood in the breach with a lovely innings of 131, and captain Jason Holder, as he has done so often, offered good support with a good innings of 58 followed by bowling figures of three for 42 off 29 stingy overs in the first innings when the bowlers limited Pakistan’s batsmen to a very slow run rate and prevented them from getting away. As good as those performances were, however, because of who they came from, they were not surprising, neither were they unexpected. Stroke-playing potential The performances which made the victory so wonderful, and exciting, and dramatic were those in the second innings as Pakistan sniffed victory and moved in. Shai Hope, who locked away his stroke-playing potential to produce an innings of 90 on that pitch and under such testing circumstances, was marvellous, and so, too, for a time, was Vishaul Singh, who contributed a valuable 32, the fielding of Shimron Hetmeyer, the wicketkeeping of Shane Dorwich, and the bowling of the three pacers, who all demonstrated accuracy and skill, stamina, and a willingness to fight to the end. In a display of the stuff of which champions are made, Shannon Gabriel claimed five wickets for 11 runs off 11 overs, the best of his career, young Alzaaro Joseph, two for 42 off 12, and Holder, three for 23 off 11.4 overs. The score is one-one, but the “corner” has not yet been turned. Some of the players, most of them, still need to work hard, much harder. This, however, was a pleasing performance, despite the state of the pitch. There was, without a doubt, a little sunshine in Bridgetown on Thursday afternoon.