Tony Becca | Well played, West Indies, but ...
On Sunday last, in fact, for some days during the past few weeks, the once dominant West Indies gave regional fans quite a bit of joy and a feeling that, at last, they are turning the proverbial corner.
It was almost like the days of old, the days when the West Indies played the best cricket on the planet bar none, not England, not India, not South Africa, and not Australia.
This, however, was a limited-over tournament, something which is right up their street.
On Sunday, at Kensington Oval, the West Indies lost by 58 runs in the final of the BallR Tri-Nations involving South Africa and Australia, the teams ranked number three and number one in the world.
Where were South Africa? They failed to make the final. They were knocked out by the West Indies a few days earlier as the home team preened themselves.
In the final, the West Indies lost to a well-drilled Australian team, but they looked good mid-way the Australian innings before they faded away as the match progressed.
It was, however, a satisfactory performance throughout.
As the results showed, it was a close series between the number-one, the number-three and the number-eight ranked teams, and the final could have gone either way.
The West Indies, however, despite the presence of Sunil Narine, who picked up six for 27 against South Africa in the first match, are not ready for Test cricket. There is still a lot of work to do in that respect.
In 50-over cricket, and in Twenty20 cricket, the West Indies are right there with everyone else, and maybe, just maybe, a little ahead of them. All they need are one good opening batsman, one good fast bowler, and possibly, one good spin bowler, preferably, a left-hander who can take wickets.
They also need one good middle-order batsman. Denesh Ramdin just does not look the part at number five. He, like Kieron Pollard, Jason Holder, and Carlos Brathwaite, as are Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo to an extent, is too unreliable.
It must be said, however, that Ramdin and Pollard played some fine innings at number five and number six, that Samuels and Bravo played some delightful innings, and that Holder and Brathwaite played a few worthwhile innings.
Head coach Phil Simmons is doing a fine job, but it may be better if he stopped calling for the absent players and get on with the job of developing the youngsters around West Indies cricket, youngsters like Shai Hope, Leon Johnson, Shimron Hetmyer, and Alzarri Joseph, to name a few.
The start of the West Indies innings, was too "iffy", and the West Indies never attempted to solve the problem.
Where was Evin Lewis, the exciting, young Trinidadian opening batsmen who went to the World Twenty20 tournament earlier in the year? In fact, where was Chadwick Walton, the hard-hitting and fairly consistent batsman who can bat successfully anywhere in the order?
Surely, Andre Fletcher did no better than Jerome Taylor, and had the selectors not removed Taylor for Shannon Gabriel mid-way the tournament, they would not have known the level of Gabriel's improvement.
He was fast, really fast, according to those who should know what fast bowling is all about.
The team played well, but in a Test match, the West Indies would hardly find a place for all of Pollard, Holder, and Brathwaithe. With Holder as the captain, Pollard would need to bowl much better than he does, and Brathwaite would need to bat a little better and bowl somewhat better than he has been doing.
Samuels (92 and 125 versus South Africa and Australia), Bravo (102 versus South Africa), and Pollard batted well, especially after the poor starts which saw the struggling at 31 for three and at 12 for three and then at 21 for four on two occasions.
Ramdin also chipped in on one of those occasions. It was a pity, however, that those occasions were few and far between, only now and again.
The West Indies Board dropped a bombshell at the end of it all, however. They announced that they had changed the chairman of the selectors, Clive Lloyd, for Courtney Brown, and there were no reasons given for what appeared to be a sudden change, despite that Lloyd's contracted time had come.
It appears, however, that some people wanted to recall Chris Gaye, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Lendl Simmons, but Lloyd did not.
That seems strange.
The West Indies Board has always had rules that they play by. The players were not selected because of these rules and because of strikes, and it is surprising to hear the call for those players to return now.
On top of that, some of them have retired in order to make money elsewhere, at least one of them because of an injury he considered would hamper his performance at a level beyond the Twenty20 version, and two of them retired out of frustration at not getting into the Test team.