Tony Becca | A fighting Test series, at last
The latest West Indies Test series in England was almost what the doctor ordered. In fact, it was almost a repeat of the West Indies in England in 1950, and it may once again be the beginning of better things to come.
In 1950, the West Indies went to England unheralded, they lost the first Test, and then, in a performance of things to come, recovered to win the series.
This time, the Windies went to England also unheralded, also lost the first Test, also won the second Test, but failed to continue and lost the series.
The Windies did not win the series but they played well. They played with pride throughout, a pride that left West Indians, certainly here in Jamaica, almost happy once again and, according to reports, glued to the radio throughout the country.
In the years immediately preceding this tour, you could hardly find a Jamaican, or a West Indian, interested in the score.
Following the amazing victory at Headingley, however, the victory which brought the scores level after the disappointment at Edgbaston, the fans were in seventh heaven. Everybody knew the score. The team, they said, had "turned the corner", and they started to serenade the players as they dreamed of things to come.
Even after that, at Lord's, where they lost again, and in the final analysis, easily at that, the fans seemed to have taken it on the chin. The feeling was that it was tough luck, and that the Windies will, shortly, come again.
There is still work to do to iron out some flaws in the technique of many of the batsmen, especially when playing defensively, and to get the bowlers to bowl a consistent line and length so that can at least try to control the flow of runs in times of need.
The fact of the matter is that, apart from the first Test match, the Windies played like tigers. They played like players who really wanted to do well, and if they continue to play like that, if the 'peace' continues between the board and the players, and if the board can convince the players to be more patriotic, they will undoubtedly come good again, if not as quickly as tomorrow.
The Windies, after losing the first Test by an innings inside three days, and after losing 19 wickets in one day's play, gave it everything, except in the field, in the remaining two Test matches, and in conditions foreign to them.
In all my travels to England, we have never played in September, and I cannot recall it ever being so cold.
The victory at Headingley may have been fortunate due to England's second innings declaration, but to hunt down 322 in the last innings of a Test match, 317 on the last day, was simply amazing.
Kraigg Brathwaite, 134 and 95; Shai Hope, 147 and 118 not out; Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, and Jason Holder batted and bowled wonderfully, and the hope is that, apart from Gabriel and the no-balls, they will go on to serve Windies cricket for many years.
Shai Hope went to England with an abundance of talent but with little to show for it. Following scores of 15, 4, 147 and 118 not out, 29, 62, he is now, however, the best batsman on the team. His batsmanship is first-class, and his driving, through the covers and through the mid-on and long-on areas, is out of the top drawer.
FAILED TO PRODUCE
To be honest, however, and although Kieron Powell ended the series on a fair note, most of the other players failed to produce.
Brathwaite was good at Headingley, but Kyle Hope was a disappointment, so too was Roston Chase; Jermaine Blackwood, who is a brilliant fielder but needs to settle down as a batsman; Shane Dowrich, both as a wicketkeeper and as a batsman; and Alzarri Joseph, who nevertheless remains a promising fast bowler.
With Brathwaite, Powell, Shai Hope, Chase, Blackwood, Holder, Gabriel, without the no-balls, and Roach continuing on the right path, with Dowrich doing justice to his early promise, with Darren Bravo expected back, and with the likes of batsmen Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, and Sunil Ambri in waiting, tomorrow appears bright if the players continue to show the passion and the fight of the past few weeks.
It would be even brighter if the Windies could toughen up Devendra Bishoo, or if they could find one whose skills are as good and as varied as Shadab Khan or Rashid Khan.
It was a tough summer for the Windies, what with the cold weather and playing a Test match in September.
It was, however, a difficult series for captain Holder.
The failure to take the second new ball, the pink ball, when it was due, under lights and in the cold of Edgbaston and with four paces at his disposal, was questionable, and so was his decision to bowl Bishoo for a few overs only after selecting him as the specialist spinner in the team for Headingley.
Bishoo was also under-bowled at Lord's, but in that case, Holder must have felt like a very unlucky captain.
After selecting Bishoo again, after winning the toss in the London sunshine and deciding to bat, no doubt aiming for a victory which would have surprisingly and satisfyingly handed him the series, the weather suddenly changed, and in minutes, Lord's was like Edgbaston and Headingley. He must have missed playing Joseph.