Several bright spots that sparked the talk about the possible and hopefully, “soon-to-be-witnessed” resurgence of West Indies Cricket in 2019 seemed the main draw from the year.
West Indies beat a Team in ODI after 5 years. Can it get any bigger for a side so seemingly keen to return to the past years of glory and promise? And you read that correct, after 5 years. The recently concluded series against Afghanistan in India was the moment where West Indies won 3-0; their first ODI Series win since 2014 against Bangladesh.
West Indies swept the ODI series, lost the T20 series 2-1 and won the lone Test match against Afghanistan. The team under their new captain Pollard needs to announce a statement against India. There is a pressure for them internally to prove themselves what they are capable of. Even though everyone can predict the results even before the start of the series against India, still they must play. Albeit the results, the series was competitive contrary to the belief of the fans all over the world.
P for Power and P for the famous new forces of West Indies Cricket in 2019.
The key component of Windies resurgence is the form of the (HP)2: Hope-Hetmyer- Pooran-Pollard. The entire team has played their parts throughout the series against India as well as against Afghanistan. But these four have played and shown the world what they can do when they really play as a team.
The Shai of Good Hope
Inarguably, the best positive for West Indies Cricket in 2019 was the one man who emerged just behind two of ODI Cricket’s shining stars- Rohit and Virat. It was that man who plays elegantly with the magical touch to do both- play the crusader and the counter-attacking force.
Shai Hope who is the unique player in the entire west indies camp. West Indies are known for flamboyant sixes, dances, Celebrations, Caribbean Calypso as well as Caribbean Collapso and lose the match from the jaws of the victory (Not the other way around). Hope brings much-needed stability to the team. His century against India in Chennai with a strike rate of 68, in the modern era is remarkable not for the power-hitting but for the fighting abilities which amplified that despite the team’s ODI ranking, it can not only fight but beat Kohli’s premier team in its own backyard. That helped Hetmyer- who struck 2 ODI hundreds, valuable World Cup fifties this year- went berserk against the Indian spinners aided the West Indies. The team won the match with 8 wickets to spare.
Does that often happen? That it did for the West Indies Cricket in 2019 and against the best team out there formed a major talking point? You can see a glimpse of Chanderpaul’s waywardly but effective power in his batting. Still, a long, long, long way to go, to be someone like Chanderpaul and if not, then draw some inspiration from a lonely soldier of the Caribbean.
Hopefully, we can see Hope as a real Hope for the hopeful West Indies fans all over the world.
A big up for the West Indies cricket in 2019 was the arrival of Pollard the captain, while his powers to wreck attacks had long been inducted in the limited-overs set-up.
Kieron Pollard, it ought to be remembered, announced himself as the most feared hitter in 2010 by demolishing Moises Henriques for Trinidad and Tobago in the Champions League. He scored a 50 from 16 balls and that fetched him the big money from Mumbai Indians camp. From there on, he has been perceived keenly as a T20 mercenary- a title he’s come to dread- and less of a warrior for the Caribbean.
What the keen and perceptive Windies fan noted was the lack of any sizeable performances from the big fella in the aspect of national duties.
Yet, it wasn’t hard to note why he was copping all that criticism as each time he wore the Mumbai Indians Jersey, he turned into a mythical warlord, something like a Bahubali with the bat in hand.
The one thing that has changed for West Indies with Pollard’s captaincy is the intent. Be it running between the wickets, going for shots, bowling short balls, field placing by including short leg in the T20, the team has shown intent throughout. And moreover, Pollard isn’t the guy who will crumble under pressure or would be the first to submit to abject surrender. He loves the fight. You saw that at the breezy Wankhede. Though, the captain himself led from the front albeit, in valiant fashion, you could see he loved the challenge. His 74 off 51 against India in the third ODI almost got West Indies home, had the bowlers not bowled the way they did.
It can be said with a positive West Indies Cricket in 2019 earned
- The stability provided by Hope
- Hetmyer, Pooran and Pollard-a combo in the middle overs
- Chase came in handy in both formats
- Cottrell’s bowling with the new ball stood out
Areas of Improvement
As a team that is under-construction (God knows how long) there will always be a chance for areas of improvement. I have shared a few from what I have seen:
- The fielding must improve. The fielding standard from both India and the West Indies was abysmal and begging for a marked future improvement
- The new ball bowling partner for Cottrell. Where’s he? Joseph is fast and learning. Thomas, despite the pace and bounce, is still very new and learning the tricks of the trade. Pollard and the team need to find someone who can trouble the batsman early. Not just that, they need a near equivalent of Kemar Roach in Tests in the 50-over set-up.
- Opening partner for Hope. Is Campbell, yes, he struck fine knocks in Ireland and also back in the Caribbean, that hero? One supposes, at 34, Simmons still has the character. But can he accelerate as well as play anchor during Hope’s off-days?
No more a“One Season Wonder”?
One truly hopes the recently concluded series won’t not just a one series wonder. Fans, self-included, have gone through this kind of false hope, many a time. You can think of a lot of instances from the past. Series win against India in 2002 in India; The Test victory against South Africa in 2007 against SA in SA; The Wisden trophy against England in 2009 – Jerome Taylor bowled Kevin Pietersen (Yeah, I could see that you are thinking about that ball); Gayle’s masterclass against Australia in 2009, especially in Adelaide. The series win against New Zealand in Windies.
Forget about the T20s. West Indies could be at the very rear-end in the T20 rankings and yet reflect the potential to win the World Cup. They know how to play that format. They thrive in the Twenty-20 template. But ODIs and Tests needs a lot of focus. I believe this recently concluded tour against India is not just a one series wonder.
The fan, who remained awake late at nights to watch a Lara and Chanderpaul rescue the team and saw Ambrose and Walsh walking into the sunset taking a flurry of wickets is still keen on his team. Although, the onus now rests with the youngsters to usher the Caribbean Cricket to embrace a chapter that doesn’t have the term “Under Construction” engraved in bold but a shining new force showing quiet confidence.