The West Indies recorded some of their most heartening and improved performances, of late, on the flourish of exuberant batting and the promise of new upcoming seamers like Sheldon Cottrell this year.
The core of the side composed of young men- Hope, Joseph, Hetmyer, Lewis, Pooran- keen to forge memorable careers grants excitement to a unit that has the youth willing to represent the national duties with a sense of keenness.
That the experienced like Gayle, Holder, Pollard- are still around and going strong seems to present a situation where the West Indies could draw power from the flair of its new talents and the experience of its cricketing stalwarts.
A side which over the course of the last past 3-4 years, has shown indications of familiar fight and flamboyance one remembers from the glory years, could go a long way in returning to the long-anticipated comeback to (big) winning ways provided it builds on the positives earned in 2019.
Which were the big moments for the West Indies in 2019?
West Indies Scored Heavily In ODIs Posting Big Totals In 2019
Some of the best moments for the West Indies in 2019 came in the form of their ODI efforts this year. Twice this year, the team posted scores in excess of 380, a rarity for any limited-over side.
While the victories in the Test arena seemed dry after the Wisden triumph, the team did go onto reach the finals of the ODI tri-series in Ireland, featuring Ireland and Bangladesh.
Their crowning moment of 2019, if it must be put that way, came in the series-opener at Clontarf, Dublin, where thanks to a 365-run stand between Hope and Campbell, the team posted a 381, its second-highest team total.
Later in the year, they whitewashed Afghanistan who invited the Pollard-led side in India in a 3-match series and succeeded in denying India to whitewash them toward the year-ending 3-match ODI series, held in India.
But overall, the West Indies, who despite losing 14 of the 27 ODIs in 2019, did manage to notch up 10 important ODI victories.
While the stack of wins may not seem even close to being adjudged as ‘job well done,’ it was the huge positives, stemming particularly from the batting performances that held the improving and rising team in good stead.
In 8 of the 27 ODIs they played all around the world, including England and Wales, the Caribbean, and the sub-continent, the team posted 300+ totals on 8 different occasions.
In the 2019 World Cup alone, they posted 3 of their 300+ totals registered in 2019, scoring comprehensively against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. But to their dismay, their bowlers weren’t able to defend the totals against the former two outfits.
While there were constant batting thrills at the back of Hope (274 World Cup runs, h.s 96), Hetmyer (257 World Cup runs, 1 ton) and Pooran’s (367 World Cup runs, 1 ton) exploits, there was none more thriller than Carlos Brathwaite’s 101 off 82, an inning that not only revived his team, being 142-4 at one stage to coming despairingly close to NZ’s 292, when a massive strike almost over the mid-wicket boundary landed in Boult’s hands, the team going down by just 5 runs.
That a full over was left from which to get the remainder of the target was as heartbreaking as exhilarating as the reminder that the team came back from the dead losing nearly all frontline batsmen at halfway stage.
But the Windies’ big ODI moment, as entertaining as it was inspiring came against England in the 5-match series where they held the visitors to a 2-2 draw, with 1 game lost to Calypso rains.
A couple of months prior to the start of the World Cup, a Stokes, Woakes, Wood, Rashid-packed attack ran into the blunt blade of Chris Gayle, who fired 424 runs from just 4 innings, firing knocks with sizzle and power, such as the 162 off 97 balls, a 135 off 129 balls, and a 77 off just 27.
That he fired 39 sixes, thus 234 of his runs only through massive, infuriatingly good strikes over the fence amplified the zeal of the Holder-led side to fight fire with fire against England. In the same series, Hetmyer fired a 104 while Darren and Shai contributed useful fifties.
Beating England In The Wisden Series
Of late, the longest format has constantly exposed the West Indian weaknesses. And there can hardly be a conflicting theory that overrules the West Indies’ awry form in Tests. But it’s also the format where the team has often punched above its weight, winning contests against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh in 2018 and where 2019 was concerned, then winning a complete series, instead of a standalone 5-dayer.
One of the biggest moments for the West Indies in 2019 came in the form of their annihilation of the English in the 3-match series, a contest the Caribbean side won by a 2-1 margin.
Big stars for this event, a watershed moment for West Indian cricket, truth be told, were the likes of Roston Chase, whose 8 for 60 in the second innings turned the game in the favor of his side at Barbados, Kemar Roach, whose fifer in the first-inning restrict England to 77, and ultimately, the magnificent seventh-wicket stand of 295 between Jason Holder and his keeping-batsman, Shane Dowrich.
While Holder, who himself put up a supporting act with the red ball in his 2 for 15 in the second inning, struck a career-best 202 not out, the highest score by bowling all-rounder for West Indies against England, his partner, the determined Dowrich remained unbeaten on 116.
The Windies denied any chances of the critics labeling their Barbados triumph as a random, one-off occurrence by trouncing their opponents by 10 wickets right after Barbados, at Antigua to clinch the series. Bolstered by Roach’s 8 wickets in the game and a tour-de-force by Bravo- 50 off 216- the team were instrumental in raising a 119-run lead over the English, which ultimately paved way for their first series win over England in over 10 years, the last series triumph coming in 2009.
But the effort also raised a question- whether Kemar Roach- whose determined, focused rip-roaring effort in Tests perhaps remains heavily underrated?
That told, the arrival of Shamarh Brooks into the middle order, the right-hander firing a maiden Test ton in India, against Afghanistan; 111, aided by a brilliant debut performance of newcomer Rahkeem Cornwall against Rashid Khan’s men, that resulted in a 10-for enabled the Windies to trounce the Afghans in a one-off Test, among the big moments for the West Indies in 2019.
Change In The Leadership Guard
As the new team management decided to replace Holder with Pollard as the captain of the limited-overs series, a new era arrived for a side, long indicating sparks of that big, long-awaited turnaround in their sport.
And Pollard, an all-rounder with a decade of experience under his belt, responded to the new challenge immediately by leading the Windies to a series-winning whitewash against Afghanistan in India.
Imaginative and thoughtful, enterprising and guiding from the front- just the quality that Windies need from a leader who demonstrates by example- such as that 51-ball-74 at Cuttack featuring 7 massive sixes- Pollard’s early days as the captain seem to have begun well.
His young team, made up of impressive bowling talents such as Cottrell supported by Holder even though lacks the fire of a genuine match-winning pacer in 50-over cricket, something the team has in the form of Roach in Tests, the side didn’t fall like ninepins against Kohli’s India, in fact, was far from it as it hammered the hosts in the opening game of the series itself. Pollard’s assuming the ODI and T20 reigns from Holder was among the big moments for the West Indies in 2019.
The Emergence Of Nicholas Pooran
Few players, right in their debut year, leave a lasting impression on their team as well as on the general context that surrounds their cricket. In Nicholas Pooran’s arrival- someone who seems to have fitted into the lower-middle order akin to a fox in a skulk- there’s someone who does very Calypso things, often in a non-Caribbean manner.
His game has the flamboyance and the Caribbean dash and yet is technically sound. At the same time, Pooran can both fire big hits and protect an end to build a stand when the team needs it. He indicated the former in India, when he joined hands with Simmons in the victorious T20 at Kerala, cover driving his way to an 18-ball-38 and demonstrated the latter when he cut loose in that awe-inspiring 135-run stand with captain Pollard at Cuttack.
That in his very first year at the international stage, he not only fired the most runs by a West Indian in the World Cup- 367, including that valiant century against Sri Lanka- but ended up accumulating 728 runs in just 17 outings with the bat from which he struck 5 fifties speaks of the reach of this 24-year-old.
Pooran’s ability to bat straight and hit long and far make him a dependable and exciting force in the lower order, a spot Windies would feel has perhaps been filled by an ideal candidate who thrives in pressure. Pooran’s meteoric rise was one of the best moments for the West Indies in 2019.
Shai Hope- The Wall Of The West Indies
2019 was a year Hope won’t forget and nor will his growing legion of fans for several reasons.
He not only crossed 3000 ODI runs, a special milestone for any batsman, he did so in becoming the quickest from the West Indies to the landmark, needing no more than 67 innings. His special feat, wherein he out-timed even Sir Viv and Babar Azam, came at the Virat Kohli-land, during the 3rd ODI at Cuttack.
At the start of the series, he fired his 8th ODI ton, scoring an unbeaten 102 to take his Windies over the line. Previously, he plundered 229 runs from just 3 games in which he carried his bat on 2 occasions against Rashid’s side, scoring an unbeaten 109 in Lucknow.
If you were to rewind the clocks further back in time, then he struck 3 vital fifties for his team in his maiden 50-over World Cup appearance, collecting 274 runs in Cricket’s premier event.
And right before entering the 50-over fiesta, he carved Ireland on his way to an unbeaten 170, a knock that crafted globetrotting headlines for the 365-run opening stand it contributed to.
Focused and determined, Hope is a cerebral figure in a set up that flexes big muscles and brawns. He puts a high price on his wicket and seems ready to walk the long mile carrying his team’s “hopes” on his shoulders. May that remain that way in 2020 and beyond.