Jason Holder’s West Indies clipped Bangladesh 2-0.
By this time even the sea waves hitting every resort from Dominica to Trinidad know the West Indies have won.
Perhaps countless social posts have been executed celebrating the victorious team. Quite certainly, incredible Insta snaps have been put with West Indians sporting wide smiles.
And why shouldn’t that be the case?
For most other Test sides- be it India or South Africa, Pakistan or New Zealand- a series win would signal no special celebration. For, winning is a habit they’ve cultivated with painstaking effort.
For the West Indies though, currently, nearly at the bottom of both Test and ODI rankings, this is a sublime experience.
At the back of a combined show of heroism by Gabriel, Roach and captain Holder- the Windies have finally tasted the holy grail of sorts.
So what if the win came against Bangladesh?
In fact, given the notorious inconsistency, would you call Holder’s team a more cohesive unit than Shakib’s Bangladesh?
Facts prove otherwise.
On recent form, Bangladesh nearly managed to outpace India in a major T20 tri-series final and have made more upsets than what West Indies’ board does with players while Windies’ last series triumph came against Zimbabwe.
For starters, the West Indies series win is a rare moment.
In fact, so rare that even celebrating it with a lengthy salutation seems some kind of sarcasm.
Spare a thought for the West Indies fan
Having waited for nearly 10 months, the fans have managed to see Jason Holder claim his maiden Test series win as a leader on home soil.
Yes, there’ve been some sparks of a sporadic resurgence in the past- but rare has been their occurrence.
In 2013- Windies beat England at Barbados but didn’t win the series. They would win again at the same venue against Pakistan but handed them the series win. They were butchered in ODIs by a touring English side that won nearly every game.
A complete series victory has escaped Windies the way a kid misses to grab a butterfly in the house garden.
Finally now, that it’s arrived- Jason Holder should accept the gratitude of his loving fans.
Holder and his teams’ admirers aren’t fans; these are superhumans.
Like the journey of cricketers, especially fast bowlers is defined by injuries and cut short by physical discomforts, the journey of a West Indies fan is no less painful.
To put up with a team that causes more cardiac arrests on live television (where batting or bowling performances are concerned) than what a patient sadly endures- the Windies don’t have fans; they have an exemplarily patient lot.
This is an admirer of the sport that has seen waning fortunes transform in a four-stage process.
Starting with seeing the glorious sixties to the eighties, the fan was first a witness to a period of unprecedented superiority. Lions loomed large in the Caribbean with Sir Sobers leading heroic feats that would later be closely matched by Sir Viv.
Then came the painful nineties, when an imminent nosedive in performances were only beginning to get real. Whilst Lara, Walsh, Ambrose and at times, Chanderpaul and Hooper saved the team the blues, the fan underwent the toil, the sweat and, not to mention- tears.
Post the Lara-era, the 2000s were about consistent inconsistencies.
Many teams have come to the Caribbean and many have hosted the men donning maroon. But all have horse-whipped them into butchery, the hapless side occupying headlines as the ‘once mighties.’
Spare a thought for what might have gone through Sir Viv and Sir Sobers’ minds when they had to contend with the site of having to see West Indies battle associate nations for next year’s World Cup.
Thankfully, the likes of Evin Lewis, Kieron Powell, Shimron Hetmyer and Jason Holder ensured they wouldn’t have to sit on the couch with a tissue box.
The West Indies fan who’d carried a placard during Lara’s mammoth 400 at Antigua- “Our Wounds Are Healed”- had few joys left. The respite would be rare and fragmented, either through Gayle’s sixes or Sarwan or Pedro Collins’ five-for’s.
Players came and went and finally, the fan had to contend with the capitulation of cricket in midst of a swag-infested T20-era.
There were new heroes. New champions emerged as if they were God-ordained to carry out decimation. Among the Gayles, Bravos, Russells, Pollards and, Narines, came- a certain Darren Bravo. Later, Shai Hope and Roston Chase.
Then suddenly, where West Indies went nearly missing where winning was concerned- in either format- they began winning T20 epics.
Heartbreak, ever their constant shadow would strike back with Caribbean cricket dissected by clans; the seniors opting for the T20s and occasional ODIs and the inexperienced regrouping under captain Jason Holder.
Honestly, at this point in time, Holder’s as big a hero as Gayle’s been
To take nothing away from a batsman who’s scored 2 triple-hundreds, Holder’s lacked the flair that Gayle has; but obviously. But he’s managed to carry a side together that may have or very nearly collapsed like headless chickens, there being no senior to guide them.
In the post-Chanderpaul and now, sadly, post-Darren Bravo era, Holder along with his deputy, Kraigg Brathwaite have managed to give this team the odd chance at winning a contest here and there.
Agreed, the West Indies are still amateurs at winning. But that they are trying and their bowling under the trinity of Roach, Gabriel and Holder are shining is an evidence of change.
Starting a new revolution?
A full-fledged Caribbean redemption is miles ahead, but we’re seeing baby-steps.
The Windies have managed to knock out teams like India, South Africa, England and, Australia in ICC World T20s. They’ve taken a T20 series in 2015 at South Africa. Moreover, they’ve all but won a thriller of a Test series in England, 2017.
Jason Holder – the man who has led the transformation
At all these times, one man has witnessed the painful period of transformation, marked by duress, failings, inconsistencies and mediocrity with great resolve.
That man is Jason Holder. For he wears a crown of thorns in captaining a fragile and often, capricious side like the Windies.
Interestingly, even his backers today are surprised that the young Barbadian has come a long way.
Yet, while Holder should pop open his champagne, perhaps amidst the serenity of a plush Bajan pool party, he should be mindful.
That his team’s middle order is clipped by inconsistencies and that he’s yet to draft a proper opening batsman who sounds legit- should worry him, if it isn’t.
The Windies will play an ODI series against Bangladesh, followed by T20s.
Later, this year, they visit India which will be their litmus Test
That neither Hope or Chase and even Dowrich have ever set foot in India should itself concern them. What might add to potential horror is the Barbadian duo- Chase and Hopes’- massive loss of form.
How much weight can a thin Kraigg Brathwaite carry on his shoulders only time will tell.
So while the Windies must celebrate, they must re-group and introspect about their lackings. The pace battery seemingly sorted and in fact, punching above their weight- it’s their batsmen that should begin to plunder runs. Too many failures have rocked the top and middle order already.
The fan, will once again, be there to cheer. But it’s about time, his team gave him some more reasons to break into a tear of a different kind; the one witnessed at Jamaica.
Only then, will the wounds be properly ‘healed.’