Follow The Trace | It still feels good
The reaction of Caribbean cricket fans to the impressive win by the Windies over England in the second Test match of the current three-match series, has been nothing short of fascinating. It has not quite been the typical overreaction, but this time there appears to be a sober appreciation for a magnificent throwback kind of Test match victory against a long-time foe.
It was a loud wake-up call for some of the despondent cynics, myself included, who had come to the conclusion, over time, that Test match cricket did not matter anymore to the people of the region. I am even surprised at how good it feels personally, and how quickly thoughts of hopelessness and despair have turned into thoughts of hope and measured optimism for the future of West Indies cricket.
The magnitude of the performance itself added value to the result, as this win could go down as contextually one the greatest Test match triumphs in the storied history of West Indies cricket. The fact that the former kingpins of world cricket have been so pathetically poor in the longer versions of the game in recent years, coming off a gutless first test match surrender in under three days. The sharp turnaround in fortunes from the first to the second Test was as dramatic as they come in this gloriously unpredictable sport. The feat of chasing down 322 runs on the final day of a Test match in foreign conditions, against one of the best bowling attacks in the modern game, is nothing short of unbelievable, and so have been the reactions.
The post-game reaction and tone of batting heroes to Test match immortal Shai Hope, and first-innings centurion Kraigg Brathwaite, after their match-winning innings, was near emotionless, displaying an implicit realisation that this was merely one isolated performance, and there needs to be many more like this before a full celebratory posture can be credibly employed.
There is one poignant concern that also came out in that same post-match interview, where the team's vice-captain, Brathwaite, mentioned the harsh criticisms that came the way of the team after the first Test debacle. The opening batsman said that the harshness of the criticisms hurt, and it inspired the players for the second Test rebound. That, in and of itself, points to a lack of inherent professional and personal pride which probably is at the heart of the current problems facing this generation of players. Those utterances by Brathwaite suggests that the players had this kind of performance in them all along, but only chose to pull it out in their quest to prove the critics wrong.
The level of dedication and application shown in the second test win should be routine for professional cricketers, especially at this elite international level. True professionals who respect themselves, their work, their fans, the country, and in this case, the region they represent, ought to be switched on and motivated from ball one of the first match of the series, and should not have to be walloped and embarrassed to be motivated to perform like professionals.
Outside of the obvious disparity in talent levels between the current crop of Windies players and past generation of greats, it is in the chalk-to-cheese difference in the level of personal and professional pride and commitment that set the teams of Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards apart from the team of Jason Holder.
The greats of the past era would not need to be clobbered, cussed and embarrassed to be the best they could. They were generally at the very best they could be every time they stepped into the middle, just like the Jason Holder's team was for the second Test match at Headingley. Let us hope and pray that they will remain switched on, motivated and fired up for the third and deciding Test match of the series, and beyond.