How important is the Sharjah victory against Pakistan for West Indies?
Shane Dowrich and Kraigg Brathwaite kept their calm and didn’t blow it away when it mattered the most. It is well known, how the Pakistani bowlers can change their colours in the twinkle of an eye to set jitters in the opposition batting line-up and snatch victories from the jaws of defeat. But on the final day of the third Test, no such hiccups took place as West Indies ended the tour with smiles on faces.
Pakistan handed West Indies a high dose of heavy defeats in the one-day series and little was expected from Jason Holder’s young team in the Test series. Critics and fans expected the same fate, but to the surprise of all, Holder’s young guns put up a spirited display throughout the Test series.
The West Indies could have gone on to win the series had they shown a bit more intent in the thrilling first Test at Dubai. Darren Bravo’s epic vigil almost gifted Pakistan a shocking defeat, but in the end, West Indies just failed to reach the shore safely.
The way the West Indies regrouped despite losing the ODI series 3-0, indicates, there is still something left for West Indies in Test cricket.
The West Indian batting line-up in Test cricket has always been regarded as fragile, but in the Middle East, they exhibited the ideal temperament - batted 100 overs in the fourth innings of the first and second Test and took all the three Test matches to the final day.
Batsmen like Kraigg Brathwaite, Dowrich, Jason Holder and Darren Bravo performed brilliantly and handled the might of Yasir Shah better than most of the touring sides in the Middle East.
Then the pace bowlers proved a point as well while a legspinner named Devendra Bishoo spun a web around the Pakistan batsmen and fetched 18 wickets in three Tests. His strike rate of 45 in this series is better than Yasir Shah’s.
Will this victory motivate the West Indies?
Well, yet another surprising victory, but whether this victory will motivate the West Indies or not remains a moot question. Because, in the past, there had been some surprising wins like this, but they always gave the impression of a false sunrise.
The state of West Indies cricket never changed.
West Indies’ victory in the World Twenty20 triggered massive celebrations throughout the world. But such victories are like winning a battle rather than war. While the top teams in the world are more focused on winning the war, West Indies were seen to be too satisfied with just a victory in a battle. No matter how many limited-overs titles you win, at the end of the day, stamping authority in Test cricket matters the most.
The victory at Sharjah should act as a significant motivating factor and for which, the West Indies Cricket Board must act and plan sensibly.
First of all, they need to end the petty quarrels between the Board and players. Such things have given West Indies cricket nothing but shame and it will be tough for the Board to plan for a bright future if there is a lack of harmony between the Board and players.
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Secondly, WICB should realize what made West Indies a force in the past. It had been the pace bowlers who took West Indies to the pinnacle of glory in the late 70s and 80s. They must think about preparing home tracks which aid Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph more. This will not only help to encourage the growth of pace bowlers but give West Indies the boost to fare well at home.
Moreover, one cannot deny how fast and bouncy tracks attracted a huge amount of spectators in the past, and the appeal of the speed merchants have not yet diminished in West Indies. Therefore, an appropriate branding of Test cricket is needed in West Indies.
The empty stands during the India-West Indies Test series hinted how the popularity of Test cricket diminished in the Caribbean region! Once upon a time, a Test match in Antigua or Barbados was like a festival, and it only happened due to the ideal branding of the format. The passion about the best form of the game still exists in West Indies but the right plan to brand that passion is only absent.
World Cricket is in need of a strong West Indies in Test cricket. The sooner the West Indies players and authorities realize this, the better it would be for them and world cricket.