West Indies
Source: screengrab from Fancode (who broadcasted the ENG v WI series)

No the West Indies aren’t on top of the World Test Championships. They haven’t whitewashed anyone. Moreover, the West Indies haven’t turned a corner in their Cricket.

Not yet.

You likely do that when you beat India in India, smash New Zealand in New Zealand. Or better yet, when you travel Down Under and thud the Aussies. You do that when you run a fire extinguisher over the Proteas’ fire.

But spare a thought for the West Indies. They’ve managed to make bold headlines at a time where much of the cricketing world has come to a standstill.

Frankly, right now, regardless of where we are from or what plans we have of this month and the next, most of us are likely consumed by the most-talked-about and obsessed over T20 league in the world.

In a sport so eternally wired in the ‘now,’ cricket right now is all about the IPL. And in midst of all of this, the West Indies, eternal bottom dwellers of Test cricket, have managed to beat a Joe Root-led England.

On the face of it, a win, even by the barest of margins seemed on the cards for the Caribbean side especially when the cricketing world was sent into a stupor by England’s announcement that national treasures- Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad- were axed from the West Indies tour.

But that the win didn’t simply drop off from the skies as a bejeweled gift from the heavens is just as true as the fact that the Caribbean is replete with sun-kissed beaches.

There are things you just can’t deny. And England couldn’t deny the hosts a grand, spectacular win at Grenada.

What will stay with obsessed fans who’ve dreamt of a great West Indian revival (since the last two decades) for generations hence will be a montage of images impossible to ignore.

Joshua Da Silva hitting a boundary to bring up a maiden ton whilst soldering on for a final-wicket 52-run stand with Jayden Seales, a proper tailender. Jason Holder taking a blinder to dismiss the dangerous Chris Woakes. Kraigg Brathwaite- bordering on zen-like calm and typically understated self throwing both arms aloft whilst hitting the winning runs. Nkrumah Bonner rushing onto the ground to collect the stumps and giving them to Da Silva. Who’ll ever forget Kyle Mayers jumping with joy with each uncanny dismissal with Ian Bishop exclaiming from behind the mic, “A first five-wicket haul for Kyle Rico Mayers”?

But did it come easy?

England made the West Indies work for a win. Captain Joe Root, not the ‘greatest’ captain at this hour, struck two hundreds in the series. Jack Leach got under the skin of the man-of-the-series Kraigg Brathwaite by bowling ninety five overs at Bridgetown, besides emerging with most wickets for his country. Crawley played his part as did wonder-men; Stokes and Bairstow firing sublime hundreds to push the Windies further back in the ground. When nothing worked for them, England threw Dan Lawrence and his hard-to-pick action on the West Indies.

Yet, despite the ebbs and flows of a series one suspected wouldn’t yield a result got its defining moment when cricket hit the spice island Grenada.

Would’ve been wonderful to see Andre Fletcher somewhere involved in the contest. Would’ve been even lovelier to see a Lara and Sir Viv, both of whom have derided over the previous week, more and more West Indians absconding from national duties (for T20 games), celebrating over a beer.

Imagine King Curtly strumming his guitar in the aftermath of the ground?

But the significance of this very West Indies victory, described as a thumping win, is beyond the grasp of stats of this match. It’s got much to do with the past twelve to fifteen months in the journey of this West Indies team under Kraigg Brathwaite.

If you happen to picture the last two summers, then the West Indies have been beaten by England in England, thrashed by the Kiwis in New Zealand, smothered by Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and found themselves run over by Proteas last year, which is when they hit the Caribbean shores after over a decade.

Quite frankly, the relevance of this Grenadian triumph concocted by effort and ruthlessness becomes all the more savoury when you picture the magnitude of defeats the West Indies suffered in the last fifteen months.

Both the Tests in New Zealand resulted in innings defeat for this team (NZ winning by an inning and 134 runs, followed by an innings and 12 runs). Last year, one of the two Tests won by South Africa included a win by an inning and 63 runs.

Even matches that didn’t yield a loss by an inning were about West Indies being defeated by heavy margins. Much of the present moment’s joy fuelled by rum punch followed by mixed juice under the balmy sun stands threatened when you recollect when they were in Sri Lanka, the team lost the two Tests by 187 and 164 runs, respectively. No different from the Second and final Test conceded to the Proteas, where Windies lost by 158 runs.

It’s not that there weren’t moments of reprieve; the 1-wicket nail-biter win versus Babar Azam’s troops at Kingston last year or the valiantly fought (2) drawn Tests versus Karunaratne‘s men in the Caribbean were prized possessions at a time where nothing was going right for the team.

But the emergence of victories, rare as they were, were infrequent with constant defeats souring the experience.

What the world may have conveniently forgotten is that the side that restarted Test cricket during peak COVID-induced havoc was West Indies. The team going as far as winning the first (of the 3) Tests by five wickets. Then came the spell-binding victories in Bangladesh.

But the failure to beat Sri Lanka at home cost the side dear, much like the incapability at overcoming a Proteas minus Faf with the greats having already retired. Hardly anyone stood tall against Shaheen Shah Afridi’s havoc-wrecking fast bowling.

Which is why when you read something like a 10-wicket win for the West Indies against an opponent that’s often cracked its back, you feel delighted, perhaps enamoured even.

And what’s most inspiring is that, where it stands at present, it seems the team is safe on Kraigg Brathwaite’ watch.

In nearly every single series where his team has lost, Brathwaite’s continued to bat on and on, grinding the opponents akin to a tyrant who attacks with mind-numbing patience.

In New Zealand, he faced 165 deliveries. At Bangladesh, he stayed on for 299 deliveries. In the drawn contests where his team hosted Lankans, he toiled hard for 674 deliveries, when there were only 2 Tests. In the Pakistan series at home, he batted for 402 deliveries and as his side lost in Sri Lanka late last year, he battled for 335 deliveries.

In terms of his powers of concentration, captain Kraigg has risen akin to a behemoth, a fact clearly elucidated by the sheer quantum of deliveries he consumed in the just-concluded series, wherein he faced, would you believe it- 902?

The current West Indian story offers twin narratives.

Kraigg Brathwaite is rising, both in terms of run-making spree as well as in his leadership abilities. He’s just produced 341 runs from the bat and then, on the other hand, under his watch, youngsters like Da Silva and Seales are firing with rich aplomb.

Holder is settled, once again, as the Test stalwart as is Roach, now ahead of Sir Sobers‘ remarkable wicket tally. The team’s mix is a versatile one where everyone’s getting a chance, on merit, to stake a claim in the eleven. Think Permaul, the most successful bowler in the Barbados Test and now, Mayers with a sensational fifer.

We don’t know when another sensational series triumph beckons West Indies. We also don’t know how many exclamation marks will their cricket compel a journalist to use when they next play a five-dayer.

But we know their love for competing and bringing their best with their backs against the wall, the West Indies are a sight to behold. Like a great leveller of life. Think the most expensive Chardonnay anywhere in town. Imagine the thrill-sought in Bunji Garlin’s hip-gyrating tracks.

Savour this moment West Indies.


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