Since the start of the 21st century there has been a lot of talk about how the systematic deterioration of west indies cricket has taken place and even though they won champions trophy in 2004 and 2 t20 world cups; in 2012 and 2016, the quality of test cricket they have played has gone done. Once the most feared team on the planet during the 70s and 80s and almost unbeatable they are now the sorry version of a King fallen from grace. Nowadays, each test victory is perceived to be an upset because of its sheer rarity. Although they beat Pakistan twice during the last two series played over the course of the year, they have failed to beat the other top tier teams like India, Australia, England and South Africa for a long time.
This summer was to change some perceptions. West indies were touring England and many of their new players were touring for the first time. Expectations were that it would be a walk in the park for the English who were riding high after their 3-1 victory over the mighty South Africans. The first test proved to be as it was expected with England decimating their opponents by an innings and 209 runs. It was like a routine defeat for the Windies who were used to getting mauled by such big margins. In the first test, they failed to cross 200 in both innings and this lead to the press and former player start the long- standing debate on two tier tests and how some teams were clearly below par. Such negativity around the WIndies must have been hard for them to digest but what was impressive that these young players took the criticism positively and wanted to show the world how passion and positivity can really lead to triumph in times of adversity. The Windies were in dire straits after the first test and faced an uphill task to shut the people’s mouth.
Come 2nd test and the WIndies looked different. They bowled and bowled fast with purpose, reminiscent of the times when they were a bowling force. They bowled England out for 258, then scored 400 odd and when they were set a target of 322 they defied the odds and chased the target with 5 wickets in hand. It was a win and more importantly it was a statement by them to never underestimate someone. They showed that they can compete and when the inexperience turns to experience they can be a team to beat. Cricket pundits believe that winning a t20 or ODI can be a one-off thing or a stroke of luck but to be able to win a test match and that too in England means that you have something in you. And they found new heroes with Shai Hope scoring 100s in each innings and leading his team to glory and in the process restoring the belief and as his name suggests ‘’Hope’’ in the heart of the fans.
The series suddenly came to life and the 3rd test would decide the winner and suddenly all the talks of a two-tier system died done. The Windies started the third test with the same ruthless aggression and bowled England out for 194 with Kemar Roach being the chief destroyer. However, a Ben stokes special and a 2nd innings WIndies collapse was enough for England to take the series. What England achieved form this series was a perfect test summer but I feel that the real winners were the Windies. They showed that grit and determination can make you win matches and more importantly it made new heroes and heroes that will serve the WI cricket and prove to be the architect of their resurgence. In a parallel universe, the Windies would still have been the best team but for now they are a team that is trying to collect the lost pieces of the mirror that reflected their glory. All is not yet over for them because such is the law of nature that after every fall there indeed comes a rise. Until then congratulations to them for showing why we love this game.
Written By Mohammad Kaab Baig