Tony Becca | A quintet of rising Windies stars
The West Indies, or Windies, tour of England in 2017 has ended, and in what must be considered a disappointing exercise, but one that ended with a few wonderful and pleasing performances.
The Windies went to England unheralded, played mostly in conditions totally foreign to them, lost the three-match Test series 2-1, won the one-match T20 contest, and lost the five-match confrontation 4-0, a result that sentenced them to battle with Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afghanistan, and company for a place in next year's World Cup.
As bitter as the losses were, as easily as they lost the ODIs, however, the Windies left England with their heads held fairly high and with hope in their breasts.
The pride came from the unexpected brilliant performance at Headingley, where they scored 322 in the last innings to win by five wickets on the last day after the embarrassment of Edgbaston when they lost 19 wickets in one day, to lose in three days, from their decisive victory in the lone T20 fixture, and their fantastic recovery from 33 for three to 356 for five before losing the fourth ODI on the Duckworth Lewis scoring system.
The hope, however, came from the performance of a few youngsters - three batsmen, one bowler, and one all-rounder.
There were some pleasing performances on the tour by batsman Jermaine Blackwood, who batted audaciously in the first Test; fast bowlers Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel, who bowled fairly well in the second and third Test matches; batsman Kieron Powell, who batted reasonably well in the third Test; batsman Christopher Gayle, who batted fairly well in the T20 and in the third ODI; and batsmen Rovman Powell and Jason Mohammad, who both had one or two promising innings.
The youngsters, who came out with flying colours and provided hope for a bright tomorrow were, however, batsmen Kraigg Brathwaite, Shai Hope, and Evin Lewis; all-rounder Jason Holder; and fast bowler Alzarri Joseph.
Brathwaite continued to play in his usual quiet way. His century innings of 134 in the second Test and his 95 in the second innings were masterpieces, and he looks like one who is devoted to the game, to West Indies cricket, and he seems to be improving with every innings.
Holder is living up to his promise to become a first-class all-rounder. His batting and his medium-fast bowling could make him an important part of a good team.
Right now, he seems to be the man for the job, but if the West Indies could find a captain, a good captain, and Holder was left to concentrate on his own game, he could develop into a fine batsman and a good bowler, one that could really make this team a really good and balanced one in the future.
Imagine a team, down the road, of five specialist batsmen at the top of the order, Holder at six; a wicketkeeper who can bat at seven; and four specialist bowlers - three pacers and one spinner, or, depending on the conditions, an extra spinner at the expense of a pacer.
If the batsmen can really bat, if the bowlers can really bowl, and if the fielders catch as well as Kyle Hope and Chris Gale did at the Oval in the fourth ODI, that combination of players would be unbeatable.
It would be almost like the West Indies of 30 years ago.
One of those bowlers could well be Joseph, the young fast bowler, who went on the tour to continue learning his trade, played in the first Test, and also in the fourth and fifth ODI, and performed creditably in the fourth, where he bowled well and claimed all five England wickets to fall.
The ones to watch, however, are Shai Hope and Evin Lewis.
Hope has long been considered one for the future, and after not really grabbing his opportunity with both hands, after a series of low scores, he came of age in England, and especially so at Headingley, where he stroked two brilliant innings to lead the West Indies to victory.
It is safe to say that his batting - his composure, his driving on either side of the wicket, and his flick of the hip - was just as impressive as his two centuries, 147 and 118, in the second Test.
When I saw Hope at Sabina Park a few times, I wondered just how good could he become. He really looked good.
When I saw him in action in the cold of England, playing each ball on its merit, cutting and hooking, and driving easily and fluently, however, I saw a batsman who seems destined to be great and to be around for a long time.
And he was not the only one.
The left-handed Lewis was another, and like the commentators, English and West Indian, I marvelled about why he was not on the Test team.
He has a first-class century; he had scored two T20 centuries, 125 not out off 62 deliveries with six fours and 12 sixes at Sabina Park versus India earlier this year, and 100 off 49 deliveries with five fours and seven sixes against India in Florida last year; and also one ODI century, an innings of 148 off 122 deliveries with 15 fours and four sixes against Sri Lanka last year.
He also blasted 91 off 51 deliveries against Pakistan last year, 97 not out off 32 deliveries against the Patriots this year, and 50 off 28 deliveries against England, also this year.
The best of the lot, however, was his 176 retired hurt scored against England in the fourth ODI on the Wednesday.
In an innings of utter brilliance, Lewis faced 130 deliveries, hit 17 fours and seven sixes, with the last 76 coming off 36 deliveries in the West Indies innings of 356 for five off 50 overs after the tourists were tottering and in trouble.
It was simply authentic power-hitting, and there was hardly any 'swiping' or 'slogging'.
The pace of scoring does not suggest that it would fit into Test match cricket, but his figures certainly do, and so do his technique and timing.
His innings on Wednesday was an innings worthy of a Test match.
It was an innings that can lead to victory in Test matches, and it was an innings which, field-placing restrictions or not, bowling restrictions or not, was reminiscent of Roy Fredericks's assault at Perth in 1975-76 when he smashed 169 not out off 145 deliveries to beat Australia, and of the day in 1984 when Gordon Greenidge blasted 214 not out off 241 deliveries to beat England at Lord's.
A good cricketer is a good cricketer, and he should be selected, whether it be T20, ODI, or Test cricket.