Orville Higgins | West Indies - dare we hope?
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 cliche, 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.
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.
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!
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.