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Electrifying Shamar, Dogged Kavem And Somewhere Actual Signs Of Windies’ Revival!

image-lrxp2rewShamar Joseph (X.com)

The last time prior to January 28, 2023 that the West Indies had won a Test playing in Australia was so far back in time that many present-day viewers of the game may not have been born at the time. It was at the celebrated WACA in 1997, where the West Indies overcame a mighty Australian side to win a game. 

That was that. But rather interestingly, 27 years on from that heroic win, the only member of the Test eleven that played at Perth was here at The Gabba, albeit behind the mic at the commentary box. That time he sported a flashing grin and a bat that produced, habitually speaking, volcanic amount of runs. 

Back then, he didn’t emote much. But today; Brian Lara was almost teary eyed with a lump in his throat. 

As a matter of fact, Brian Lara didn’t cry back in 2004 when under his leadership the West Indies eclipsed England to win the celebrated Champions trophy. That’s when he was in it. Nor did he shed out much apart from obvious actual gladness on noting his team clinch the two World Cup titles in ICC T20 events, namely- 2012 and 2016. 

But it seemed, something about this West Indies team and, Shamar Joseph in particular, had him on January 28 in this new year 2024. It did the Prince in. For it was simple- the Windies playing eleven that usurped Australia played like kings. 

You know cricket becomes something far bigger than a sport tied to its eventual fate or its statistical eventuality when back in the commentary box, a revered member of the team that’s being vanquished and that too, on home territory, embraces a person hailing from the nationality of the team that vanquished it with another fellow observer going nuts in jubilation, one who’s neither an Australian or a West Indian. 

So when Josh Hazlewood found his off stump dislodged with Australia needing just eight to win all thanks to a Shamar Joseph screamer that came in at 143 kmph, it wasn’t only the West Indies that won. Up in the comms box, Adams Gilchrist couldn’t help and gave Brian Lara, once a formidable opponent, a bear hug as the great Ian Smith exclaimed in usual vibrant spirit the pandemonium on the Gabba turf. 

There were scenes. Absolute scenes. 216 being a fourth inning total, which had it been 250, would’ve been a fighting sum, was defended. 

A team that none, perhaps not even the most cricket obsessed fan in the Caribbean gave a chance, won. 

A giant fell. 

And with its falling arose the collective cricketing identity from the breezy Caribbean isles known as the West Indies. 

Forget not, a little over half a year back, as the West Indies white ball team failed to beat teams like Zimbabwe and later, Scotland in the ICC 2023 ODI World Cup qualifiers, there were many who had written the obituary of this very team. 

Half a year later, maybe those pieces of paper on which some gruesome, heartbreaking words of cruelty were written with seething emotion want their authors to eat them up. They want the dismay and de glorified version to be turned into a spirited tale of new triumph. 

For sure, it’s just a Test match that’s been won. A solitary win. Australia weren’t and haven’t been whitewashed or smashed to smithereens. 

But in the context of a team that few backed and fewer even saw live here from the sub-continent, remember the Disney+ Hotstar live viewership never even being close to 20,000 on any day of the Brisbane Test prior to the final session, the win rung a far greater reward than any statistical significance. 

For a team whose premier opening batsman, a captain who often lays the foundation to a promising team score but one who failed to score much runs, this was a win manufactured by literal nobody’s in world cricket. For a team that has in Brathwaite and Chanderpaul a recognised patient and quality opening pair of batsmen, also its most experienced on the day barring Joshua Da Silva, this was a win scripted by the power of its bowlers. 

To a team to which Alzarri Joseph (four-for in the 1st inning) lends such firepower and grit with the ball, this was a starry performance put in by another Joseph; not that the Antiguan’s spell in the first inning was any less significant a match winning effort.  

To a team that neither had Hope, Chase, Holder or even Blackwood, this was a victory on ground stitched by a fine quartet called Shamar Joseph, Kevin Sinclair, Kavem Hodge and Justin Greaves. 

Not your usual flamboyant names. Not big names in the game either; the low key but talented set of youngsters from far flung islands in the Caribbean seem to hold, at least on current sight, a way to resurrect the West Indian Test cricket’s future.

Agreed that Chanderpaul’s been hugely out of form. He’s not made a fifty in any of his last ten to twelve innings. Also agreed that Brathwaite failed to get to a promising score fairing well below expectation in both Tests. 

What’s also pretty evident is that true to their stringent and recurring nature of chop and change, the West Indies team at the test level don’t seem to have a core if you were to ignore names like Kemar Roach and Kraigg Brathwaite and say, Joshua Da Silva. 

But this time around, truly speaking, it appears that the selectors and the board and management staff have aced the selection. Shamar Joseph, a buoyant and spirited youngster who took thirteen wickets in his maiden Test series and that too, thousands of miles away from Caribbean comfort, has revived a lot of interest in white clothed and red ball cricket, which prior to the start of the series, was really dissipating. 

In Kavem Hodge, there’s finally a middle order batsman who doesn’t fear pace on unfriendly surfaces. Someone who can build on a score and takes his time to settle in. 

His 71 in the first inning was perhaps as remarkable as central to his team’s victory as was Pujara’s 54 off 216 deliveries when India won a famous Test at The Gabba, the very venue. In Sinclair, Windies have an attacking all rounder who can, as one saw, produce goods with both bat and ball and against exceptionally tough opponents like Australia. 

The West Indies now really need to cultivate these talents who have in them, the quality to serve their game for the long run. With T20 leagues growing around the world in the same fashion as pretty much every Gen-Z youngster’s facial hair and the proclivity to wear loud clothing, it’s time to look within and prevent the cricketing exodus in the Caribbean. 

For anything else will be a great disservice to West Indies fans who long for the great resurgence, something that appears is happening with lone sparks such as the 2012 and ‘16 World Cup wins and with solitary reminders that with players like Hope and Pooran all’s not over. But quickly fades away! 

However, given the very viable passion for excelling in the game and persisting despite heavy odds and even physical discomfort as was the case with Shamar Joseph, it looks as though some sort of revival is on the cards. Now it’s about manifesting real talent. Ain’t that right, dear Indies? Rally!