2015 Cricket World Cup Highlights India Vs South Africa Finally A New Dawn For The West Indies?

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Finally A New Dawn For The West Indies?

Ignored by the controversy surrounding India’s decision to postpone a Test match requiring 86 runs off 90 balls was the continued improvement of their counterparts. Since a 2-1 series defeat against Australia in 1995, the West Indies have fallen precipitously from their position at the top of the cricket world. Players such as Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall and Sir Viv Richards (to name but a few) retired during a 5 year period which destroyed a junior team in the long term.

But are we finally about to see a renaissance in one of the most exciting sides, historically, in world cricket?

First, here is a comparison of West Indies’ performances in Test series before and after defeating Australia:

1980-1994: Played 29, won 20, drawn 9, lost 0

1995-Now: Played 50, won 13, drew 7, lost 30

NOTE: just a glance at these statistics highlights how amazing the West Indies team was in the 80’s and early 90’s. A possible future article could be a comparison of them and the achievements of the Australian side who took the mantle of ‘world’s greatest cricket side’ from them.

Now let’s explore the performances of the West Indies final side further:

1995-2003: Played 25, won 10, drawn 2, lost 13

2004-Now: Played 25, won 3, drew 5, lost 17

When you consider that these 3 wins have come against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and an England team still reeling from the Pietersen-Moores debacle and it compounds the stunning collapse of a major cricketing nation.

This barren spell for the Windies includes whitewashes to South Africa, Australia and England and even the ignominy of losing 2-0 at home to Bangladesh in 2009.

However, a bud of life has suddenly sprouted from the side under the captaincy of Darren Sammy boasting a number of exciting young talents to go along with some of the more experienced campaigners. Of course, we have been down this road before with the West Indies. Who can forget Dwayne Smith and his 93-ball hundred on the first Test match against South Africa. One of the most naturally gifted batsmen in terms of seeing and hitting the ball, Smith averaged a paltry 16.22 in 77 ODIs for the West Indies.

NOTE: By comparison, in 201 ODIs Brett Lee averaged 16.25 runs to go with his 349 wickets. I know who I’d rather have by my side.

Even now we are still treated to the occasional thrilling innings from Kieron Pollard – a man that 4 IPL franchises saw fit to bid the $750,000 for (for cricketing or marketing reasons I suppose?). Yet Pollard has so far managed just 4 50s in 42 ODIs and has a T20 average of 12.33. Few things keep fast bowlers awake at night.

But now, the Windies have introduced a cadre of youngsters who are starting to perform consistently for them instead of keeping their place in the team on untapped potential. Among them is Darren Bravo, the half-brother of his teammate Dwayne, who has drawn comparisons with none other than the great Brian Lara (by the way, his second cousin). For a left-handed batsman who plays in a similar style to the Trinidadian legend, it is high praise given his failure to score a century in Tests or ODIs so far. Furthermore, you only need to look at the number of footballers from Brazil and Argentina who have been labeled the next Pele or Maradona to see the pressure this can put on a young man. However, averages of 40 and 33 in the respective forms are an encouraging start from the 22-year-old who still has time on his side.

Kemar Roach is another who was drafted into the team at the age of 19 and has impressed the judges. Capable of bowling at speeds of up to 93 mph, Roach made his international debut in the T20 match against Australia in 2008 after playing in just 4 first-class matches beforehand. Finishing with best match figures of 2/29 was an indication of his huge potential. So far, Roach averages under 30 with the ball in all forms of cricket. Even more impressively, he led the inexperienced Windies attack in Australia in 2009, drawing praise from the likes of Ricky Ponting and Ian Chappell as a star of the future. Roach was also the man of the series the following year in Sri Lanka – a country known for providing slow and dusty pitches unhelpfully for fast bowlers. A hat-trick against the Netherlands in this year’s World Cup helped him on his way to career best figures of 6/27.

Devendra Bishoo and Kirk Edwards have both become regulars in both formats in recent times. Bishoo. is a leg-spinner, has impressed many with his aggressive style of bowling and has become one of the Windies’ leading wicket-takers. Even more entertaining are his post-match interviews! Edwards recently scored 110 against India on his Test debut to help draw the match: showing great determination and enthusiasm in his batting.

Add to these young players experienced performers like Shivnarine Chanderpaul (who, at 36, is still going strong judging by his recent century against India), Dwayne Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan and you have a core group of players to deliver a fresh start exciting to the Caribbean.

Despite this, questions remain surrounding the team. The controversy surrounding the long-running feud between former captain Chris Gayle and the West Indies Cricket Board has long overshadowed their recent achievements (summarised here). Indeed, this saga underlines the lack of professionalism still inherent within the Windies administration which still stems from the 2009 wage disputes.

Furthermore, there are still question marks regarding the merits of captain Darren Sammy’s place in the side. The skipper has failed to justify his selection as an all-rounder, keeping Kemar Roach out of the side with a series of poor performances with the bat overshadowing his modest success with the ball. However, a recent interview with CricInfo highlighted Sammy’s determination to foster a professional ethos, high fitness levels and more contact with young talent in order to boost his team.

Sammy has stated his aim is to reach the top 5 with the West Indies by 2015. After years of selecting their best player for the role of captain, perhaps England’s approach of prioritizing leadership skills over talent (Hussain, Atherton, Vaughan and Cook in ODIs) is proving to be the right one in pointing this proud cricketing nation in the right direction.

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