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Modern-era West Indies – Powerhouse of T20 talent but different story in Test Cricket

West Indies lacking in producing role model in Tests for quite a sometime now.

SL vs WI - West Indies lost first Test match against Sri Lanka in Galle
West Indies players huddling as the wicket falls (©AFP/GettyImages)

It was around dawn when Sun was slowly making its way in West Indies when the fans back home with sleepless night were turning on the television to get some joy following their Test side in Sri Lanka.

What they saw perhaps urged them to turn off the television straightaway; miserable scenes were flashing out before the whole world. The legendary players of the golden era of West Indies would have felt a sense of unease observing the struggle the current side is going through.

WI top-order batters disappointed in Galle Test

On the fourth afternoon of the first Test during the ongoing series between West Indies and Sri Lanka, the former were made to chase a huge score of 347 runs in the fourth innings to win the match which was unlikely to occur but the only thing that could save them were rain gods and a bit of sensible batting to end the nervous evening.

However, in a quick time, by the 12th over to be precise, they found themselves at 18-6 with the batters back in the dressing room still figuring out how they got foxed in the face of some quality spin bowling by Sri Lanka off-spinner Ramesh Mendis and left-arm slow bowler Lasith Embuldeniya.

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite picked the wrong length for his wishful shot whereas his opening partner Jermaine Blackwood had run out of patience and eventually played a horrible misjudged shot in the hands of Angelo Mathews. The upcoming four other batters had no hint of which ball would turn and which one would hold its line.

Perhaps, sitting in the drawing room or somewhere else, Gordon Greenidge or Desmond Haynes or Sir Viv Richards were scratching their heads to witness such a decline of West Indies’ Test side. Brian Lara was probably trying to search the rulebooks in an aim to find whether he could again pad up and bat in his old shirt for West Indies. Read More: SL vs WI - 1st Test, Day 5, Galle – SL win by 187 runs despite Bonner’s resistance; take 1-0 lead

Golden era of West Indies – Only a thing of past?

It is dreadful and shocking how the graph has come down for the Caribbean side in the longest version of the game since 2008-2009. Even 4-5 years back from then, they were not the same side of 11 match winners as they used to be in the 70s and 80s. Apart from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh or Curtly Ambrose, no one seemed to be fit in the Test side forever.

In those old days, if you look at the West Indies bowlers, all of them felt like a force to reckon with, wearing those famous trench coats with floppy hats on their head in the outfield waiting to bowl their next spell.

One wonders, as an opener or even a top-order batter, how scary the nights one would have thinking about the pacers. But hearing from one of those yesteryear pacers of West Indies, it comes to light that it’s not just about only running and bowling fast to the batters.

“People thought, “Oh, four fast bowlers, just bowl bouncers all day, people will get out,” expressed Whispering Death, Michael Holding in a web-interview series Breakfast with Champions. “We were meticulous with our planning; we sat down and planned the dismissals of opposition batsmen (sic),” he added.

Even watching their batsmen only walking down to the pitch was such an amazing experience. Sir Vivian Richards was the perennial swagger symbol of the side for anyone of the new generation, only watching him with the stick to the middle was equal to getting the right value of the money. Not only him, but Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd was too bad to miss out in those lists.

The next period gave birth to Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, someone who would block and block espousing old school batting under his belt until the bowler did something horribly wrong. The toughest to bowl against in that phase was without doubt, Lara, who could hit the same ball to six different positions. “Lara: He was a nightmare to bowl to because you couldn’t reset a field,” delivered former Australia speedster Brett Lee in one of the segments of the aforementioned web-interview. Read More: Dravid-Rohit’s real test will be T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia

Mercenary cricketers turning up at T20 leagues around the world costing West Indies Test side

The hard truth is that the problem afflicting the Caribbean side is mainly the dispute between the players and the board; most of the players being young don’t want be part of the maroon legacy rather revel in earning big money playing different leagues even before making debut for their national side. It is such a shame that the likes of Shimron Hetmyer or Nichollas Pooran don’t put in their same efforts in the longest format of the game as the shortest format.

Even there have been several occasions in the past that the West Indies national team is found playing a Test match without their prime players turning up just because somewhere in the planet one of the league games are being played. Yes, undoubtedly that makes you a perfect side for the shortest format but on your shoulders, there is a huge responsibility to carry the past legacy of your country for the sake of the young generation.

They might have won an odd game here and there just like they chased some special targets in Bangladesh against quality bowlers but since then couldn’t replicate the same thing. Shai Hope was superb at the start of his Test career scoring hundreds in both innings to provide his team an unbelievable victory at Headingley against old rivals England.

Again, captaincy and team management will be crucial in taking some key and tough decisions. There was no way that Kemar Roach could warm the bench in the Galle Test specially after what impact he had in the county games for Kent. Yes, one could understand Shannon Gabriel is a quality bowler but current form is such an essential point; your rhythm makes you bowl better than anyone else.

CWI has its task cut out

It is not only about the board; yes, they have to encourage the new generation to play more five-day games rather than flying to various countries to make fame and money adding their name in those franchise games but it is the players who have to realize that winning a Test match for your country is second to nothing. You could have a great innings in a T20 but if you stood up against a quality side to win or even draw an important Test for your country, people will never ever forget your name.

Chris Gayle, the Universe Boss, who has two triple centuries in this format equaling Sir Don Bradman. Virender Sehwag and David Warner had last played this mode of the game seven years back. It somehow paints out the whole scenario.

The domestic cricket structure along with the tracks will be so vital in effecting new developments in this form; a leader who could cope up with different cultures of the various islands will be crucial. They have to do it at a rapid pace before other teams and followers of the game begin to take West Indies lightly when they turn up in whites.


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