PARTAB RAMCHAND | 31 JANUARY, 2019
It is great to see the West Indies winning a Test during these tough times
For the sheer joy and excitement they gave us during their halcyon days of the past it is great to see the West Indies winning a Test during these tough times when they have slipped badly particularly in the game’s traditional format. To defeat England by as large a margin as 381 runs – their third highest in Test cricket by margin of runs - must be one of the most incredible results in recent times. On the face of it a Test between the No 3 ranked England and the No 8 ranked West Indies should be a no contest even if it is played in the Caribbean. It was indeed a no contest but not in the manner expected.
It is a fact that England have not won a Test series in the West Indies since 2004, the two visits since then producing a win for the home team in 2009 and a drawn series the last time they played in 2015. But on current form England were clear favourites and full credit to Jason Holder and his men for an emphatic victory. They were a revelation in both the batting and bowling and this is one match in which the scoreboard conveys pretty much the full story of how the home team completely outplayed the visitors.
The West Indies virtually had the match sewn up by the second day when England were shot out for 77 but the manner in which they ruthlessly consolidated their position brought back memories of their heyday. With a deficit of 212 runs England were virtually out of the match and a second innings total of around 200 could have shut the visitors out of the match. But the unbeaten 295 run seventh wicket partnership between Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich put the home team on their way to a crushing victory margin which they duly completed with a day to spare.
The coup de grace was provided by Roston Chase and in a match of several unexpected happenings his success was perhaps the most unexpected. Thanks to the good work done by the pacemen Chase didn’t even get to bowl in the first innings. Before he came on to bowl in the second innings Chase had taken 42 wickets in 26 Tests at an average of almost 48 with one five wicket haul. But the off spinner gave those figures a big tweak with a capture of eight for 60.
It is a pity that thanks to several run ins with the authorities several leading cricketers prefer to ply their trade in the various T-20 leagues around the world instead of representing the West Indies. At full strength, they would not only be a far stronger side but also a very exciting one. But recent results have shown that the West Indies might just be turning the corner. And the man who can lead them to at least something of their past glory has to be Jason Holder. Ever since he took over the leadership he has looked the part trying his best to inspire his weak side to play above their potential. Leading from the front has come naturally to him and what happened a few days ago at Bridgetown was the high point of this aspect of his captaincy. His unbeaten 202 – the third highest score by a No 8 batsman in Test cricket – broke several records and has lifted him to the No 1 spot among the all rounds in the ICC rankings ahead of Ravindra Jadeja and Shakib al Hasan and making him the first West Indian to occupy the top slot since the one and only Gary Sobers. To highlight the greatness of Holder’s achievement it must be pointed out that Sobers held the spot in March 1974. Chase himself spoke with a lot of feeling for Holder after the victory hailing the captain as a ``legend in my eyes, a long time friend who I believe in and who believes in himself on the field.’’
The team is certainly developing along the right lines. In Shai Hope and Darren Bravo they have two high class batsmen and in Kraigg Brathwaite they have an opening batsman who has delivered. Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach are two very fine fast bowlers and in Shimron Hetmyer they have an emerging star. All the pieces have just to fall in place for the West Indies and the victory over England will boost their confidence no end.
Yes, the West Indies have only won the battle and not the war. Two Tests remain to be played and coach Richard Pybus has rightly warned his players not to get carried away and keep their feet on the floor. England can be expected to come back hard and in a way the remaining Tests will be the real strength of character for the home team. But the result at Bridgetown has generated considerable interest in the series and if the West Indies can kick start a comeback with this win it would be great news for world cricket.