By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published November 7, 2016
West Indies won the third and final Test match against Pakistan on the back of resolute performances from Kraigg Brathwaite, Shane Dowrich, Jason Holder and Devendra Bishoo.
Oh, Happy Day (Oh, Happy Day)!
Oh, Happy Day (Oh, Happy Day)!
In the past month, I have had many sleepless nights. By 12 a.m. each night, I would switch on my telly to Ten Cricket or Ten 3 TV channels and begin preparing my midnight snack. I would watch the pre-day of play discussions for the West Indies versus Pakistan series, taking keen interest to what the commentators and analysts had to say about this young West Indies coterie. As play progressed, promptly at 1 a.m., I would settle on the couch, observing each stroke played and ball bowled by this young West Indies team. Sometime between 4 a.m. to 5 a.m., I would lose the fight against sleep and by 6 a.m., I would be up again getting ready to head out to work which starts at 8 a.m.
For the past two years, I have been speaking about the West Indies’ abysmal record against the top-7 teams in world cricket (Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka) since January 1, 2000. For the past 16 years, West Indies won only two matches on away tours: against England in 2000 and against South Africa in 2007. However, that changed to three wins last week Thursday when West Indies defeated Pakistan in the meaningful third Test in the United Arab Emirates. For many it might not seem meaningful, West Indies was once again showing a credible performance after a series was lost. However, it had several positive aspects though we must taper our geyser-like enthusiasm.
This group of players has shown fight in this Test series, forcing each of the three Test matches into day five, a rarity in recent years in West Indies cricket. In the last 13 away Tests, before this tour of the UAE, only one Test match not affected by rain or bad light has the West Indies forced into a day five. Losses in four, three or even two days have become the norm these past 16 years.
As the away record stands, West Indies have won three (3) matches, lost a whopping 56 and drawn 17 in the last 76 away matches against the top-7 teams in the world. Optimism returned to the beleaguered West Indian fans, despite the fact that West Indies lost all but one match on this tour: 0-3 in the T20Is, 0-3 in the ODIs and 1-2 in the Tests. The win is commendable of this young group of players and once again, the chants of West Indies turning the eternal corner will emerge in chorus from the optimists among us, but not me.
In reality, West Indies has a long way to go to return to the top of world cricket. Nevertheless, there are flickers of hope, which we must highlight from this series.
Table 1. West Indian top batting averages for the tour of the UAE
Kraigg Brathwaite topped the runs scored and batting average columns for West Indies, amassing 328 runs, including a century and two half-centuries at an average of 82.00. Braithwaite also created history in West Indies’ rare away Test win by being the first opening batsman in 2229 Test matches to go unbeaten in both innings of a Test match: 142 not out and 60 not out.
At the end of the third Test match, a grounded Brathwaite said, “This has been the best batting Test match so far of my career. I hope to repeat this feat many times in my career. I’ve had a good start. The key is to maintain it. I don’t want to get comfortable. I just want to continue working hard and score a lot of runs.”
In addition to Brathwaite, youngsters, Shane Dowrich (46.33), Darren Bravo (45.50) and captain Jason Holder (41.00) all produced praiseworthy performances and averaged over 40 runs per wicket with the bat during the series. Darren Bravo scored 87 and 116, showing immense fight and patience in the first Test, which single-handedly, along with Bishoo’s bowling, saved West Indies from an embarrassing defeat. Like Brathwaite, Dowrich also created some history for the final Test being the first West Indian wicketkeeper since Jeffrey Dujon in 1988 to score 40 or more in both innings of an away Test match (47 and 60 not out). Since being assigned the wicketkeeping duties, Dowrich has been averaging 38.37 runs with the bat, a considerable upgrade from former West Indian wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin, who was averaging 25.87. Let us hope this puts to bed the disquiet among Ramdin loyalists regarding his exclusion.
Table 2. West Indian top bowling averages for the tour of the UAE
In the bowling department, Devendra Bishoo was the pick of the West Indian bowlers, taking 18 wickets at 27.00 runs a piece with one 5-wicket inning haul and one 10-wicket match haul in the series. Bishoo’s eight (8) wickets for 49 runs in the first Test was another historic West Indian milestone, the fifth-best bowling performance in an inning by a West Indian bowler. Captain Jason Holder and strike bowler, Shannon Gabriel took 9 and 10 wickets in the series respectively, with Holder topping the bowling averages with Gabriel ranked third.
The performance of the young West Indies coterie is a marked difference from what was seen in the T20I and the ODI series. In a column, I wrote a few weeks ago – “Whom should we believe: Bravo or Garner?”– Dwayne Bravo hinted that the team was demoralised – due to Phil Simmons being sacked as head coach – and seemed ill-prepared to tackle Pakistan in the series. Joel Garner, a West Indies board member and the manager of the team in the UAE, rubbished Bravo’s assertions. If it was true, it seems the players have finally lifted their heads from grief and have tackled the task before them.
As captain Holder summarized at the end of the series, “We showed character and fight […] Even though we lost the series, we did a lot of things right.”
Unbelievably, that is all West Indian fans want from their team: character and fight, and them doing more things right.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
All data for this article was obtained from ESPN Cricinfo Statsguru Database on or before November 3, 2016.
Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning freelance sportswriter whose articles have been published by ESPN Cricinfo, Western Mirror, The Jamaica Observer, Trinidad Express, Essentially Sports and others.
This blog article was also published in the Western Mirror on November 7, 2016.