Two kinds of allegations are routinely made against the Windies.
First is that they don’t win in Tests.
And second that they hardly win a series.
And while these allegations aren’t unfounded- because quite like hips, numbers don’t lie- it’s remarked that they don’t win series’ either at home or overseas.
But funny it is to even allege the latter when they have hardly won of late, in the Caribbean; the quintessential land of flair and dash, albeit one drenched in the hay days of the past.
But is this allegation utterly true?
Maybe, it’s one thing to allege and something quite other to break free of a mirage ( possibly one that the Windies themselves have helped create thanks to their often listless, mostly abhorrent lack of consistency).
Here’s a case in point.
From the onset of the 2016 season, there have been shambolic losses for the Windies with the wins being far too few and inconsistent.
In the UAE, the Windies lost a 3-match series 2-1, with Pak thrashing them
Moreover, there wasn’t much to write home about other than a solitary valiant effort of 116 by a man one’s come to (perhaps unfairly) compare with Brian Lara when one knows well that Darren Bravo’s Test numbers don’t do justice to his charm as a batsman.
Moving on, in the ’17-18 season, the Windies were invited by New Zealand.
This was nothing other than a one-way thrashing that the Kiwis were delighted to extend to a side that lost 2-0, including being handed a humiliating innings defeat. The Second Test saw the boys, minus the experienced men like Gayle, Ramdin, and co., being hammered by an inning and 240 runs.
The onslaughts dented in 2016, magnified by their 2017 form would only get amplified in a shrill, unbearable sound whence the team reached England.
Once in Joe Root-land, the historic occurrence at The Oval; Shai Hope breaking a 127-year-old record, that of scoring back-to-back hundreds, accompanied by vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite’s defiant batting got somewhat dulled by another series loss.
This time, England became another side that welcomed Windies and roasted them, the First Test itself producing an inning and 209-run defeat for the tourists whose fans couldn’t have been blamed for sobbing.
So what happened thereafter?
Well, what else, another plunge in fortunes?
As the 2018 cricketing season came to a close, the Windies gave India a chance to run them down with once again, with another exhibition of some gutsy batting, this time thanks to Roston Chase with Hope being hopelessly out of form doing little to help his side avoid a humiliating drubbing.
In arriving at a new venue for world cricket to pick them apart, it didn’t help that the Windies only self-highlighted their woes courtesy a shocking inning and 272-run loss as seen in the First Test. But make no mistake.
And if these Test bashings weren’t already enough, it didn’t help a Holder-less Windies who travelled to Bangladesh where another series loss, this time by an inning and 184 runs (Second Test, Dhaka) allowed Shakib’s boys to prevail.
As commentators you were bored.
As a hater of one-sided Test outcomes, you felt drained out.
That’s not all.
Even if you were a seat in any Test stadia- and don’t forget there were quite a few even when the Windies thrashed Bangladesh at home in 2018- in that pleasantly surprising (fascinating is better, right?) innings victory at Antigua (wherein WI beat Bangladesh by an innings and 219 runs)- you were disgusted.
And just then when one would have expected Joe’s men- beaten left, right and, centre- one comprising of Anderson, Broad, Curran, Ali, with a returning Stokes along with Buttler and Bairstow- to have mauled the West Indies in the Wisden series, what did one see?
Anyhow, when was the last time you read that the West Indies won the Wisden trophy?
Fans of the system of rankings, self-titled experts on Caribbean cricket, and, above all- those who perhaps cannot outlive the idea that West Indies aren’t just a historical entity but a youthful unit that’s doing more than just survive in Tests, found to their dismay phenomenal headlines.
The Windies win: not anymore a cliche!
Not anymore a figment of one’s imagination.
It’s not that Jason Holder’s troops- for in being called warriors there’s still time and would demand more consistency from them, of the kinds they showed a few hours back- hadn’t won a Test before.
As recently in June 2018 did Holder’s men embrace a 226-run win at Trinidad, as they brisked past Sri Lanka with great ease. The margin of victory interestingly bearing the uniqueness with Lara’s Adelaide double ton (2005).
Nonetheless, a month later, at Sir Viv’s home, in Antigua they’d maul Bangladesh- no other way to put it- by a grizzly margin. And not to forget that the Headingley Test win, interestingly in Queen’s England were driven by ‘Hope’ and a lot of guts Holder’s side proved to be the ‘Root’ cause of Joe’s team.
Still, what had been missing all this while had been a series triumph against a big side, one of the world’s leading teams.
And as hard-work and sheer focus would have it for luck, as they say, tends to side with those who dare, Jason Holder’s Windies would crush England to win the Wisden trophy.
This seems to be a series that may go down a long way- and hopefully should- to remind those who’ve bemoaned the Caribbean decline.
And therefore, it may not be foolish to understand that the days of West Indian slumber- a state self-imposed by poor infrastructure, heartless cricket and whatnot- seem to be over.
With Roach bowling as good as he is, with Gabriel intact as their tearaway and Chase silently effective, after a long time does it seem that the West Indies have a sorted bowling line up. Joseph, who must be credited for continuing to fight even as he lost his mother, adds potency to a what’s emerging as a threatening pace attack.
In Dowrich, the clamour for ‘bring back Ramdin’ now seems over.
And can you blame the Bajan for his amazing consistency?
But the Windies, a collective of greats like Sir Sobers, Sir Viv to Brian and Chanderpaul- would and should fundamentally bolster the tradition of batting, isn’t it?
So where’s the vacuum, one asks, as in Hetmyer there’s ‘Hope’ that formerly, the ‘West Indies‘ can ‘Chase’ down any score? Or for that matter, fend off world-class bowling with Shai in as the number 3, a hero who mustn’t fail, is there’s a scope?
And if you saw the events at Barbados- not just a cricket ground rather a fortress that protects its eleven sons, or should one say one boosted by heroism of a special kind that always comes to the fore (see the team’s record, especially from the onset of 2015)- you know that in Jason Holder there’s an able navigator of a ship that one thought was sunk, but one that could be on way to safer shores.