An Avant-garde Of The Series, Accompanied By The Hope For The Windies > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - A breakthrough series accompanied by hope for the Windies
Two comprehensive wins set-up West Indies' first Test series triumph over England since 2009. After years of turbulence on and off the field, there is a sense this victory may not be followed by the false dawns that have accompanied similar breakthrough moments in the last decade. As such, here are some conclusions from the hosts' convincing 2-1 win.
Smells like team spirit
A lot is made of the number of players from the Caribbean currently making their living outside international cricket. A quick whip-around the various Twenty20 franchises can provide you with a formidable XI - albeit slightly ageing - of active cricketers that, on paper, would give the current West Indies Test side a good game. One often forgotten fact, especially by those who turn their noses up at these T20 purists, is how their respective journeys all started because of a huge distrust in the national system.
The threat of overseas riches impinging on the future of the region's cricket was one worth challenging. But as T20 was expanding to occupy a greater portion of cricket's real estate, erratic decisions from the governing body, such as trying to ban players from participating in various competitions or trying to enforce a tax on earnings outside their remit, created a huge stink at a critical juncture. The stink still lingers.
However, it seems lessons have been learned and a softer tact is being taken, as seen with the recall of Darren Bravo. Trust between players and administrators is slowly being rebuilt and there is a real sense something worthwhile was developing. The clearest indications came from those on the field. The desire to fight for every run - epitomised by Bravo's brave, match-winning 50 in the second Test on a devilish surface - and back up the exceptional bowling attack in the field had been lacking for quite some time.
Though a turnaround so soon after such a dire 2018 may suggest waving through a new dawn is a tad premature, the signs within the group are positive. There is a core just entering their peak: Jason Holder and Shane Dorwich are 27, Kraigg Brathwaite and Roston Chase are a year younger along with 25-year-old Shai Hope. Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel (both 30), are experienced spearheads of the bowling attack which can nurture the younger quicks coming through.
Of course, money will play its part. CEO Johnny Grave played a blinder in securing an extra $48 million increase in funding from the ICC in 2017 and much of that cash is being invested towards shoring up the domestic system, reinforcing the pathways and increasing the professional player pool. Remuneration of Test players has and will continue to increase. Better funding coupled with series wins like this will not just help maintain the focus and the drive for West Indies in Test cricket but also give the players something worth returning to.
There is a lot of white noise around how teams should prepare their home pitches. Hopefully the West Indies ignore all of it. On this tour, we have been treated to three surfaces, each slightly different, all conducive to compelling cricket - all giving the bowlers something to work with.
England came to this particular series not knowing what to expect. A Lions team sent to this part of the world last year was taken down by the spin of Jomel Warrican and Rakeem Cornwall and the tourist's selection for the tour and in the first match reflected this. West Indies comprehensively bested England for pace and that, above all else, is how they triumphed. It is a strength they absolutely must play to if they want to climb up the rankings.
Bridgetown had pace; St Lucia had seam and variable bounce; Antigua a beautiful amalgamation of both. India arrive in July for a host of white ball matches and then two Tests at the back end. The venues for both are up in the air but, wherever, they are, the groundsmen must ensure to cater for the bowlers.
It's a risky strategy given Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav will be in town, but it is one that gives West Indies the best chance of ensuring the last month is no flash in the pan. And let's be honest - it makes for incredibly watchable cricket.
Young guns, running free
So - how about that Shimron Hetmyer? A glorious 81 in the first innings of the tour, blitzing England's attack, all while wearing a Fresh Prince smile and a gold chain with a bat for a pendant. Where do we sign?
Or perhaps Alzarri Joseph was more your vibe. Brooding, angled approach, quick arm and a bright white watch at odds with the unflashy muted celebrations that followed each of his 10 wickets. The admirable stability of mind and soul to come out and perform upon the passing of his mother. They make their 20-year-olds tough in Antgua.
Maybe even the merest sight of Keemo Paul in the third Test has granted him your vote? He was the pick of the bowlers on day one and was sorely missed in the second innings when his quadricep gave way at the start of day three. In case you had forgotten, he's also the Mankad kid. What's not to love?
Like Pakistan, the West Indies have an incredible knack of producing talent despite their poor infrastructure, relative to the behemoths of the modern game. The key is opportunity: due to the state of flux of both teams, a young upstart with a bit of a reputation will always get his chance to shine. And in their own ways these three graduates of the U19 side that won the World Cup in 2016 have showcased the depth of talent coming through in the Caribbean. You can add Oshane Thomas to that list: an used squad member during the series but an incredibly exciting fast bowler. You'll hopefully get a glimpse of him during the ODI series if you haven't already from his exploits in the Caribbean Premier League.
There is already talk of what West Indies need to do to prevent Hetmyer from vanishing into the T20 ether. While there is no need to be so fearful just yet, even with his bumper deal with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, aspects covered above in the first subheading, such as making him feel he is contributing to a project of substance, will be the surest way of ensuring he sticks around for the long-form grind.
Keep investing in Holder
The number one allrounder in the world, a captain to be proud of and the sort of bloke who would drive you to the airport. There's a lot to love about Jason Holder. The third characteristic was a standout from the start. In fact, you could argue West Indies giving Holder the job of captain in the first place was to allay in-fighting because of the logical and very correct conclusion that you simply cannot fall out with a man as nice as him. The manner in which he has taken ownership of that role commands respect far beyond his own shores.
As rough as last year was, Holder managed to stay level thanks in part to his own performance. To have marshalled his side so effectively against England while returning 229 runs (averaging 114.50) and seven wickets (17.85) will give the 27-year-old greater confidence in his charges and reinforced that he deserves to dine at the top table with Test cricket's current stars.
All the way through, Holder has played a blinder, right up to his post-series comments when he announced a charge for the number one ranking and urged caution. With no exceptional team, topping the ICC's list is not necessarily the grueling long-term project it once was. Holder is no mug in that regard: he knows what's out there and he knows what he has at his disposal. But to really make good on that wish, even for West Indies to improve on their No.8 ranking, those in charge must ensure Holder's job is as easy as possible.
So far, they are doing their best to support him by, among other things, allowing him to satisfy ambitions beyond the international scene. He was encouraged to enter the IPL auction and, when that did not go as planned, a stint with Northamptonshire in English county cricket was signed off. As mentioned, the WICB have lost plenty of talent by being too heavy-handed in the past. Now it seems they have learned from their lessons in time to support one of the most valuable players they have had in a long, long time.
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