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West Indies On A High
……But Back-To Back Wins Over Sri Lanka Does Not Prove Resurgence

By Orin Davidson
First it was Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, then Chanderpaul again with some able assistance from Dwayne Bravo.

In successive matches West Indies pulled off rousing victories over Sri Lanka mainly on the backs of match winning displays by three of their best players.
Sarwan emerged from the ravages of injury to out- bat everyone else from the two teams, ending with a world class century that fashioned a come- from behind series leveling victory in the second and final Test match at the Queens Park Oval.

Chanderpaul regained the golden batting form from his best year in international cricket in 2007, in the nick of time to seal the victory with Sarwan in a partnership display that was as vintage as it was rare these days, in a West Indies context.

The left hander made his resurgence genuine by pulling off another magical innings that clinched a thriller of a victory for West Indies in the preceding first Digicel One Day International that made you suddenly realize that 50 overs cricket should always maintain its prominence over Twenty20 on the world stage.

His 62 not out, that included a final delivery six, that preceded a four from the game’s last two balls which happened to be the identical number needed for victory, laid strong claims for the Match of the Match award, ahead of Bravo’s career best ODI four wickets for 30 odd runs haul and his shot filled 36, until he was run out in the latest Chanderpaul involved mix up.

But hey, I would’ve made them both joint MOM winners.

To hit a match -winning six off a game’s final delivery calls for unnatural strength of character. You can count the number of players with such a feat under their belts in a recognized game, on the fingers of one hand, much less in an ODI. And to add the four Chanderpaul hit off the previous ball, makes his accomplishment extra special, as the bowler turned out to be Chaminda Vaas with more than 300 ODI scalps to his name,

Above everything else though, you don’t get the added depth of intrigue and suspense in the shortest form of the game now called Twenty20 , But on Thursday fans got seven hours of enthralling stuff and more.

West Indies came off the mat with those two wins after collapsing to an improbable last day defeat batting on a pitch Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakara described as the slowest and flattest he ever played on, at Guyana’s Providence Stadium in the first Test match.

But it does not conclusively prove that the team is any better than it was before Chris Gayle took over after Brian Lara left.

They could not have improved their physical fitness overnight, which is the main quality holding them back for them from ramping equally among the world’s best teams.

This was a short two- match Test series, and the beginning of an even more condensed ODI best of three rubber, which hardly tested the mettle of the West Indian players, that a better formatted best of five- match series would have.

Without appearing to downplay West Indies’s wins at the QPO, which gave them a shot in the arm since Gayle’s debut at the helm, counting the regularity of victories in England, South Africa and now against Sri Lanka, the reality is West Indies has not yet proven itself a better team now compared to the recent past.

Remember how well they started in last year’s World Cup before running out of gas even before the mid way stage?

Or in South Africa when they won one the first Test and never again tasted victory for the rest of the tour that included five ODIs?

Right now they need to be tested in longer competition which is what the International Cricket Council (ICC) should’ve made mandatory at the last of its several recent get- togethers in Dubai.

Three matches or nothing should be the minimum for all international Test competitions, and five for ODIs

West Indies ability to prevail over Sri Lanka in a three game Test series or five ODIs would definitively prove they have reached another level.

The proof in the pudding always lies in the eating and this column space is not about to pour hot water over the team’s back to back wins especially in light of a marked defiance to stop the bleeding of losses these days by Gayle and company.

Such defiance, however has been forthcoming from the decision makers on the West Indies Cricket Board.

Despite the announcement of a hefty return in money from hosting the World Cup last year, there still are no specialist full time coaches to work with the bowlers or for fielding.

Also you have to wonder whether spin bowler Dave Mohamed has been blacklisted from ever playing again for West Indies. You are made to believe that his destruction of opponents in the Stanford Twenty20 series on top of consistently good returns in the past, were flash-in-the-pan feats, especially since room was found for a left arm spinner in the team on Thursday.

In general , the entire team selection process was dumb founding.

Without Sewnarine Chattergoon and Dinesh Ramdin in the starting squad, you get the impression the selectors were still enduring delayed reaction Easter celebration hangovers.

On the other hand any rotating exercise of players which Ramdin and Darren Powell could qualify for, should be made public. But with the team coming off an ODI 5-0 whitewash in South Africa, now is the hardly the time for wily nilly rotations.

Every other country knows how to strike a good balance.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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