Who am I?Where am I?

08 February 2009

West Indian Cricket

I'm a huge cricket fan and passionate supporter of the West Indies! Since I became a cricket fan in the late 90s, this is easily the proudest moment! YES YES YES!!!

What's happened to West Indies?
Vaneisa Baksh
February 8, 2009

When coach John Dyson uttered the pre-combat words, it had struck me that he must have been trying some new approach with this West Indies team to be sounding so confident. And when Sir Viv Richards said it was time to turn things around, adding that "Either they are going to come through with John Dyson's method or we've got to go on another ride again," it seemed that something different must have been emerging under the new coach.

Yet nothing portended anything significantly different. Both England and West Indies teams seemed lacklustre as entities. One was reeling from in-house upheavals; the other relied on its captain to be in party mood and was only otherwise propped up by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a producer not quite renowned for provoking excitement.

So the first Test at Sabina Park offered no thrill, merely a window through which to observe how England was coping with its new structure, and to see how Suleiman Benn and Brendan Nash would fare. It was placid watching over the first three days. The teams seemed fairly evenly matched, and although there was no sense of top drawer cricket, it was a reasonable way to spend the days. But there was something starkly different in the West Indies approach. It seemed measured, patient and disciplined. Kevin Pietersen made 97, but then both Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan scored centuries, patient ones that lingered in the mind for the difference in application that was reinforced by Nash's stoic going. It removed the feeling of impending collapse that inevitably clouds a West Indian innings.

The bowlers were not flying all over the place. Jerome Taylor was good in the first innings, but in the second he was riveting. Bowling straight and true and always controlled, he muttered murder with every delivery, and it invoked Curtly Ambrose in a way no West Indian bowler has been able to do for a long time. He deserved the Man-of-the-Match award for his 5 for 11, but also because he has been the most consistently improving player in a team that has seemed to be languishing in amniotic fluid for too long.

Suleiman Benn had intrigued me with his unexpected combination of height and spin, and I had been keen to see him unravel it on England. When you think about it, Benn is something of an anachronism, coming at a time when West Indians have lamented the loss of big, tall quick bowlers to stock their arsenal. He is the tower on the team, but he is a spinner, and the little one, Jerome Taylor is the dread man with the fast ball. I think between them, the West Indies may have finally made a mental breakthrough in terms of arming itself. They were bowling as a pair, a quickie and a turner, not grouped in the conventional categories, and it worked. And this might be a big step in shifting the predisposition of selectors for quickies who are really throwaways with no control and opting for bowlers who can determine their deliveries. Benn has an unusual advantage with his height, one that should add to his complexity, and his success will augur well for slow bowlers waiting in the wings.

It was weird enough to see the team play in this composed manner throughout the match. Even as the bizarre England collapse was underway in the second innings and cameras were panning out to their shell shocked supporters; and chants of London Bridge is falling down filled the air, even as I wondered what they were thinking, I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to the West Indies team. What were they thinking?

It was clear they were thinking throughout this match, keeping their composure, and sticking to a plan. England on the other hand, crumbled outstandingly. It was hard not to feel sorry because the truth is that Taylor was simply superb, and the batsmen were out of their depth.
At the astounding end early on Saturday afternoon, a deliriously shocked Jamaica crowd celebrated a total victory that was all the more precious because of its rarity, and a series that had seemed lacking in lustre was suddenly lit up with anticipation.

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