Slowly but surely, Windies build back brick by brick

Shai Hope showed some brilliant batting form in the recent tours of India and Bangladesh

Remember, when Windies were set to tour India in October 2018, most expected a no contest. In fact, many argued against scheduling a full-fledged series against a weak Windies side. It’s a waste of time, they said.

As it turned out, though Windies lost both the Tests within three days, they tested India more than anyone expected. Shanon Gabriel had his pace right up there as opener KL Rahul struggled to get going. Roston Chase reminded of his match-saving century in the 2nd Test of the India tour of Windies in 2016 by notching up a half-century and a century under pressure situations. Skipper Jason Holder also made key contributions with the bat, apart from bagging a fifer in the only Test that he was able to play in.

Then came the ODIs and India casually rested their front line pacers in Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, thinking that the Windies would be pushovers. After a tied match and a lost match, Team India was forced to bring back Bumrah and Bhuvi in the 3rd ODI and lost the match by 43 runs despite that.

However, the Caribbean team went down in the remainder of tour including the three T20Is. That then begs the question, have they flattered only to deceive?

The revival of Windies, in a sense, began when they drew a hard-fought Test series 1-1 at home against Sri Lanka. Shane Dowrich emerged as their most successful batsmen as he piled up runs at an average of over 50. Skipper Jason Holder, of course, stood out with his all-round performance while Shanon Gabriel reminded of the fierce Windies pacers as he pocketed 20 wickets in three matches, adorned by best inning figures of 8-62. 

Next up was Bangladesh who were taken to task by a resurgent Windies. Kraigg Braithwate absolutely owned the series as he smoked two hundreds to become the highest-run getter of the two-match Test series. Jason Holder was at it again with 16 wickets at a mind boggling average of just over eight.

Post the Lara- Chanderpaul era, if there are any Windies’ batsmen who remotely give hope of steadying the ship, they are Kraigg Braithwate and Shai Hope. Conceded, that Braithwate’s form has dipped recently, but he has already shown that he has all the makings of a very good Test batsman.

This year, Shai Hope’s form was relatively poor at the outset. He wasn’t able to really convert his 15s and 20s into something meaningful in the Tests against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Post that, however, he’s really discovered himself. He slammed back to back centuries against India in the ODIs and has been a different player since. His recent heroics comprise an unbeaten 146 to steer his side to victory in the 2nd ODI against Bangladesh.

“I am becoming more consistent, so I am pleased. We lost wickets at some crucial stages so I had to put up my hand up and bat through the innings. My aim was to bat as deep as possible. My preparation is same. I haven't changed anything from the Test series,” he said after slamming an ODI ton against India. 

From being the World Cup winning captain of the West Indies U-19 team of 2016 to have become one of the most explosive batsmen in the Windies batting line-up and being bagged by the Royal Challengers Bangalore for a whopping Rs 4.2 crore, Shimron Hetmyer has already risen through the ranks. His recent 123 in the 2nd ODI between India and Windies remains the highlight of his short yet promising international career. 

Oshane Thomas is a product of the Caribbean Premiere League. Hardly anyone in the international circuit knew about him until he clocked 150 kmph in the 1st ODI against India. Suddenly, you sat back and took notice. Who is this guy? 

Thomas knocked out Shikhar Dhawan’s pegs repeatedly on his India tour as the southpaw kept getting beaten for pace. It is the quality of raw pace to draw you in, isn’t it? At the cost of making tall comparisons (some may say needless), it reminded of the Windies pacers in Holding and Ambrose who had the ability to scare the opposition batsmen.

It is very easy to sideline the Windies and say that they are on an irreversible downslide. But one has to understand things in their context. The tussle between the cricket board and the players, monetary issues, losing a generation of players suddenly and then losing another to a host of domestic T20 leagues is bound to take a toll on the staging of a country. 

One must also remember that Windies as a nation is not one landmass, they are a group of islands and hence patriotism, which becomes the combining factor for other international teams, can also go missing at times. Given all this, the fact that they are gradually putting the pieces together and beginning to find their feet in the international circuit again deserves admiration, not indifference. 

© Cricket World 2018