"I'm very scared we will be relegated to be playing against Ireland and Scotland. It`s very sad for us"
These are the words of former West Indies skipper, Darren Sammy. The two-times World T20 winner's concerns are not totally baseless given the fact that West Indies missed out on a Champions Trophy berth. That they were playing T20s and ODIs against Afghanistan while eighth-ranked Pakistan were churning wins one after the other in England reveals the state of West Indies cricket.
West Indies cricket is like your hair each morning when you wake up. Most days it is haywire, tangled and in complete disarray with a whole bunch of them totally refusing to co-operate with the rest. But there come days when it feels like you don't need a shower at all. All strands blend in unison to the perfect shape.
West Indies, akin to this, are in turmoil most of the days with a group of players and the cricketing board at war against each other. But then there are days like the one against England and India in the World T20 final and semi-final respectively when everything clicks and they are on top of the World.
The influence of T20s
One would think that a side which has won two ICC tournaments in the past five years should undeniably be playing in the Champions Trophy. However, both trophies are the T20 World Cups, a format they thrive in.
In sync with their jovial culture and carefree attitude, T20 cricket is their bread and butter. They are so made for each other that most of them travel all around the globe to participate in every T20 game ever played.
The cream of their talent is out there in the World playing T20 cricket in different nations and the few that remain at home are either not picked or aren't used well. The domestic structure, administration, facilities and cricket as such in the Caribbean need a desperate uplift.
However, there is little time to concentrate on all those with the festival season beginning again when India visit.
The One Day squad led by a young and highly talented Jason Holder take on an India team that will be desperate to put the Champions Trophy loss to Pakistan behind them.
Lack of a solid opening pair
West Indies are in dire need of a stable opening batsman after their failed experiment with Kraigg Brathwaite. The dour Test opener could not make an impression with his poor strike rate in ODIs and Evin Lewis, despite impressing in T20s is yet to cement down his spot.
Kieran Powell, recalled for the ODIs against India, has had little impact in the format and also has an unwanted tendency to throw his wicket away in strife. They are woefully short of options in the domestic circuit as well and need some young guns to put their hands up.
Emergence of new talent
All is not lost for West Indies cricket though. There are sparks of talent here and there to make you believe that a renaissance is plausible although it could take some years. Between every Johnson Charles and Chadwick Walton, a Roston Chase emerges and proves the strength of the Caribbeans.
Chase is in every way a detour from the way West Indies play their cricket, but a much-needed detour.
With 403 runs in six Test innings against the Pakistanis, Chase showed the kind of firefighter he is. The manner in which he left balls and stepped out to spinners was a treat to watch for the true West Indian cricket fans, who have been treated with nothing but wild slogs for the past few years.
Chase's inclusion in the West Indian ODI team has a new context after the Champions Trophy. He is to West Indies what Fakhar Zaman is to Pakistan.
While both are totally contrasting batsmen they offer something different to their respective teams. Chase bring stability to a haphazard, happy-go-lucky West Indian ODI batting line-up. It is eerily similar to how the inclusion of an aggressive batsman amongst dour ones changed Pakistan's tournament around.
Evin Lewis, that opener who lambasted India in a T20 in the United States, Alzarri Joseph, who grabbed headlines for smacking AB de Villiers flush on the helmet in the Caribbean Premier League, Kesrick Williams, an unassuming yet tricky seamer, Rovman Powell, the Kolkata Knight Riders' big hitter are all wings of change in this West Indian line-up.
The big improvement in bowling
While the talk about T20 has dominated West Indian cricket for quite some time, the emanation of a trio of quality seamers has gone rather unnoticed.. Shannon Gabriel might be out injured from the first two ODIs against India but the skiddish, muscular Gabriel has been outstanding in the past few months.
The skipper, Jason Holder, despite being believed as batsman-friendly has a nasty bouncer and bowls tight lines at the start of an innings.
The cream on the cake is Alzarri Joseph. The lanky quick is making rapid strides in the West Indian line-up. He may not have the numbers to back up his talent at the moment but there is no doubting that he is a silver lining for the West Indian team.
Throw in a Devendra Bishoo, a Miguel Cummins and the all-round skills of Roston Chase, Jonathan Carter and the bowling does not really have a bad look to it.
The way to go
If the Windies need any inspiration, they needn't look much further than Pakistan, who won four games on the trot in a major tournament, courtesy their well-oiled bowling unit. That is not to say their batting was poor.
But all it took was two to three guys to hold together the batting unit. It is not an understatement to say that West Indies might have those men with them already.
Despite losing a valuable talent like Darren Bravo and quite a few others to several issues, West Indies cricket has stayed afloat and now it is time for them to sail high. The renaissance has possibly started and with a better cricketing board and the right coach, cricket could be on the rise again in the island.Published 21 Jun 2017, 19:28 IST