West Indies – dare we hope?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Orville Hig­gins Orville Hig­gins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

IT’S NOT time for wild cel­e­bra­tions, but surely, we as West In­dian fans can feel a small sense of sat­is­fac­tion at how the team per­formed in the Test se­ries against Pak­istan.

Prior to this se­ries, the West Indies have not won a Test in Pak­istan since the early 1990s. Prior to yes­ter­day, we haven’t beaten a top team away from home in nine years. In fact, in a decade and a half, we have won only three Test matches away against op­po­si­tion out­side of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. A com­pre­hen­sive five-wicket vic­tory against the world’s num­ber two-ranked team is, there­fore, noth­ing to be sneezed at.

What made the win in the third Test even more sweet is that it came on the back of a wal­lop­ing in the Twen­ty20s and ODI se­ries. There, the team looked list­less, as if they were play­ing with a gun to their heads. The fight shown in the Test se­ries was sur­pris­ing. In the first two Tests, West Indies pushed Pak­istan all the way to the end of the fi­nal day. In the first Test, the West Indies fell short by a mere 56 runs. We were one good in­nings away from an un­likely win.

The sec­ond Test was won by Pak­istan by a more com­pre­hen­sive mar­gin, 133 runs, but in the sec­ond in­nings of that match, the Caribbean team bat­tled to 322. Many a West Indies team of the past would have folded meekly.

I know it’s an oft-re­peated cliché, but there re­ally is hope go­ing for­ward. Kraigg Brath­waite had a great se­ries: 32,6,21,67, 142 not out and 60 not out were his scores. That’s an 82 av­er­age. In the process, he be­came the only open­ing bats­man not to be dis­missed in both in­nings of a Test.

GREATER HEIGHTS

Dar­ren Bravo started bril­liantly, although he ta­pered off to­wards the end. He ended up with a se­ries av­er­age of 43.5, and the hope is that he will kick on from here to greater heights.

Mar­lon Sa­muels was a dis­ap­point­ment. He av­er­aged less than 25 in the se­ries and is now av­er­ag­ing a mere 18 in his last 21 Test in­nings. His days as a Test player may be num­bered. He him­self told me on air months ago that play­ing in all three for­mats was be­gin­ning to take its toll. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if he calls it quits in Tests or the se­lec­tors call time on his Test ca­reer. He re­mains a valu­able part of the lim­ited-over ver­sions, how­ever.

Ros­ton Chase, Jer­maine Black­wood and, to a lesser ex­tent, Leon John­son all showed glimpses of class, and all showed that with a lit­tle more ap­pli­ca­tion, they could be use­ful per­form­ers down the road.

There was a lot of hue and cry when Shane Dowrich re­placed De­nesh Ramdin as the Test keeper, but he has been qui­etly per­form­ing both in front and be­hind the wicket. He bat­ted four times in this se­ries for 32, 0, 47 and 60 not out. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad move by the se­lec­tors after all.

That fi­nal in­nings was un­der im­mense pres­sure and showed ma­tu­rity way be­yond his years. The cap­tain, Ja­son Holder, made use­ful scores, but his five for 30 off 17.3 overs in the Third test is one of the most de­ci­sive spells of fast bowl­ing by a West In­dian in our long his­tory. He was un­der im­mense pres­sure to re­tain his game as player and cap­tain, but after this se­ries, he has def­i­nitely bought him­self some time.

RE­CAP­TURED FORM

The leg-spin­ner Bishoo demon­strated that he has re­cap­tured the form that made him the most out­stand­ing young player in the world a few years ago. He is a gen­uine leg-spin­ner who gets the ball to rip. He also has the kind of tem­per­a­ment that doesn’t get ruf­fled. If he de­vel­ops a more dan­ger­ous googly, he will be a hand­ful for op­pos­ing bats­men, es­pe­cially when con­di­tions suit him.

If only the West Indies could get Narine to play Test cricket. Slow-bowl­ing twins Narine and Bishoo, at their best, could pose real prob­lems in spin-friendly con­di­tions. Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and Miguel Cum­mings had their mo­ments, although none re­ally took the se­ries by the scruff of the neck. If they stay fit and con­tinue to work hard, they could be a hand­ful down the road, though, and with the cap­tain Holder fi­nally look­ing to run in and hit the deck hard, the West Indies do have the mak­ings of a com­pe­tent pace at­tack.

I’m not go­ing to get overly op­ti­mistic, but as a West Indies fan who has suf­fered through the years, I’m qui­etly hop­ing that there are brighter days ahead. If we can com­pete with the world num­ber-two team away, we should not be blown off the park by any­body else in the near fu­ture. My fin­gers are crossed!

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