Tony Becca | Gabriel strikes it rich
The West Indies are up against Sri Lanka. They have won one Test by an impressive margin of 226 runs, drawn one with one to go, and based on the results so far, they have been playing quite well.
To the West Indies' credit, they have played themselves into a position from which they cannot lose and should go on to win the series.
The opposition do not, admittedly, possess the quality of India, South Africa, Australia, England, or even New Zealand, and neither are Sri Lanka what Sri Lanka used to be.
Neither, however, are the West Indies, or the Windies, what they used to be.
Although they are not what they used to be, the West Indies flickered brightly at times, showing, especially, the will to fight.
In the first Test, the Windies were down 147 for five wickets and recovered to 414 for eight declared with wicketkeeper/batsman Shane Dowrich chipping in with an invaluable innings of 125 not out.
That was good, really good.
The really impressive thing so far, however, was the bowling of fast bowler Shannon Gabriel.
After years of disappointment, bowling fast but wayward, bowling bunches of no-balls and wide deliveries, Gabriel turned up at the Darren Sammy Oval in St Lucia last week and delivered.
In 16 overs in the first innings, he claimed five wickets for 59 runs, and in the second innings, he ripped out eight wickets for 62 runs in 20.4 overs for a total of 13 wickets for 121 runs in the match.
It was the third-best figures ever for the West Indies, behind Michael Holding's 14 wickets for 149 versus England at The Oval in 1976 and Courtney Walsh's haul of 13 wickets for 55 against New Zealand at Wellington in 1995.
Gabriel came to play this time around, and he played brilliantly. He was not bowling to any batsman of the calibre of Virat Kohli, A. B. deVilliers, Hashim Amla, Steve Smith, David Warner, Joe Root, Alistair Cook, and Kane Williamson, but eight wickets in a Test innings and 13 wickets in a Test match is something to shout about, and loudly, at that.
Well done West Indies, well batted Dowrich, and well bowled Gabriel! May this be really the beginning of some good things in the future!
Gabriel has shown that he is more than a gentle giant, and he has proved that nothing is wrong with West Indian pitches that skill, hard work, and a little luck cannot conquer as the likes of Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, and Patrick Patterson did some years ago.
The performance of Dowrich also underlined that nothing is really wrong with West Indian pitches.
Saving Test cricket
As the wonderful effort of a West Indian cricketer in Test cricket is noted, so, too, is that of a former great player in his bid to save to save Test cricket.
Speaking at the annual Pataudi Memorial Lecture in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India, two weeks ago, Kevin Pietersen, the South Africa-born England cricketer, urged the powers that be to focus on the revival of Test cricket.
According to Pietersen, who captained England, who played Test, One-day, and T20 games for England, and who excelled in all three versions, "a hard-fought five-day Test match remains the greatest all-round challenge in modern sport.
"A challenge as mentally demanding as it is physical. A challenge demanding the very highest levels of concentration of technique, of determination, of stamina, all, for the batsman at least, with no second chances.
"Having played every form of cricket in every corner of the cricketing globe, I remain 100 per cent convinced that the five-day game remains the supreme form of the game."
Pietersen went on say: "Twenty20 provides the thrill, the noise, the speed, and no little genius. It has taken fielding to a new level and has redefined batting. But it offers the cricketing buzz without the full sting.
"Wickets are less precious. Risks are taken without the same downside. There is less character and technique required. Few players have ever been met with the wrath of an entire population simply for getting out to an injudicious shot early in a T20 innings.
"Trust me! There is no feeling like the exhaustion, the excitement, the sense of wonder at waking up on the final day of a Test match knowing that any result is possible. The aching thighs. The mental fatigue. The fear. And the possibility that this will be the day."
Pietersen should know. He has experienced it.
How can Test cricket be revived?
According to Pietersen, Test cricket can be revived by simply paying the players more money.
Where will the money come from?
Like I have written on so many occasions, and according to Pietersen, the money should come from the game itself.
"Let's make every game count, push the profile of the World Test championship, develop marketing opportunities, offer cheaper seats to provide a better spectacle for TV viewers, and provide similar marketing for Test, as happens for T20 games."
SPICE UP TEST CRICKET
The powers that be could also spice up the Test game by looking, for example, at the situation with wide deliveries and tighten it up, as happens in One-day and T20 cricket.
Pietersen also suggested that the ICC play more day/night Test matches at the time when people are available to attend the games, remembering that more spectators will be better for the players, the sponsors, and for television, and also that they provide entertainment, like music and give-aways, for the fans.
"Today's players would like to emulate the feats of players like Don Bradman, Len Hutton, and Sunil Gavaskar, but to ask them to give up the riches of T20 cricket for the less attractive pay of Test cricket is no different to asking a Bollywood star to give up his career for work in the theatre. It may be a more classical form of acting, but it offers a fraction of the reward."