Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Follow the Trace: Light at end of tunnel

Published:Monday | February 1, 2016 | 2:20 AM
West Indies Under-19 players celebrate after their quarter-final victory over Pakistan in the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in Bangladesh.
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The triumph of the West Indies under 19 cricketers in winning the region's first world title at this level is a sweet experience worth savouring for the long suffering fans of West Indies cricket.

Many of us have, in recent times, become despondent, resorting to cynicism and blind hope in our search of that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for the region's cricket.

However, the manner in which this team went about its business in this tournament suggests that the hope might no longer be blind. The region's cricket administrators now need to do everything in their powers to ensure that the core of this group makes the transition into the senior ranks sooner, rather than later.

The tenacity, passion, commitment and basic cricket intelligence shown by this Shimron Hetmyer-led team has not been seen in any West Indies team at any level since the glory days of the 70s and 80s.

There were some teachable moments during this tournament which left no doubt that these players possess some of the crucial qualities that have been missing from our cricket for many years.

DESIRE TO WIN

The ruthless desire to win, at first manifested in that now infamous run out of the Zimbabwean tail-ender by all rounder Keemo Paul to win the game and effectively keep the West Indies team in the tournament. Then there was that stumping by the wicketkeeper, which accounted for the first wicket against India in the final. Then later in the Innings when another Indian batsman was struck by a short rising delivery, the West Indies bowler was all business getting back at his mark ready to do more damage, even as the wounded batsman received treatment.

There have been many West Indies senior teams in recent years that lacked both the awareness and killer instinct of these teenagers, to run out that Zimbabwean tail-ender, to stump the Indian opener; title-winning decisions made in the heat of battle.

Our fast bowlers of recent years, would probably have been apologising to the injured batsman instead of keeping their eyes menacingly and uncompromisingly on the prize. These are but some of the conspicuous differences I saw with this team that should inspire genuine hope for the future.

Even with elevated expectations, I urge caution as West Indies cricket overall is still in a pretty bad place, especially in the longer versions of the game. We must not forget amid our visions of grand turnaround, these Under-19s won a 50-over tournament and not a tournament of Tests.

I posit that most of these young players will evolve and develop into T20 stars and not Test cricket stars. Natural athleticism, speed, power and flair remain the trademarks of Caribbean players, including the Under-19s, which make them a perfect fit for the shorter, more explosive format of the game.

The reality is that these young players, like those before them, will more than likely be smote by the irresistible incentives of T20 cricket and will inevitably gravitate towards those goodies, therefore deepening our already substantial talent pool in that version of the game, as our Test and ODI relevance continue to diminish.

It is downright foolhardy and naive to expect that this group of young players will behave significantly different from the current crop of international senior players, when faced with the reality making five or 10 times more the amount of money they can make as 'T20 freelancers' playing in the glamorous high paying T20 leagues around the world, compared to what they would make as international Test cricketers representing the West Indies.

Those are the fundamental realities we need to ponder going forward, even as we raise our expectations thanks to the performance of the new Under-19 world champions, the West Indies.