For many of the genuine cricket fans around the world, West Indies is their second favourite team after their home nation. For the slightly older ones, it is because of the way the old timers went culling the rest of the world in style, back in the 1980s. For the current lot of fans, it is the underdog spirit that is a major propelling factor. When on song, there are few better sights in Cricket than viewing a Caribbean Calypso.
West Indians have come for plenty of criticism and it swells with every passing defeat. Star players are adopting a mercenary like attitude, prioritizing franchise cricket over playing for their country. The ones playing Test cricket are not deemed good enough.
A Boxing Day Test at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is one of the highlights of the year. With 70-80,000 people thronging the stands, the blazing sun and the competitive cricket being played makes for compelling viewing.
There is hardly a flutter for this one though. After the ignominy at Hobart, people expect another West Indian capitulation here. A bowling attack of Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach and debutant Miguel Cummins is not the worst that it could get. India has gone in with a poorer pace attack and have paid the price for it too, in the years gone by especially in away Tests.
Darren Bravo averages 52 away from home and Kraigg Brathwaite showed once again that he is a better Test batsman that some give him credit for. Australia remains relaxed and even Melbourne’s weather is now threatening to play spoilsport, with rumours of rain looming quite large.
Just a couple of months ago, Steven Smith looked like he had a monumental task on his hands to rebuild the side, who had lost several of their key players after the Ashes loss away from home. Against New Zealand, they purred. In Hobart, they roared.
The Aussies now look settled. Even the much vaunted Shaun March is amongst the runs. The team has to accommodate returning Usman Khawaja, who made a majestic return to the team against the Kiwis. Forget about winning the series, Smith’s men are already eyeing their return to the World No 1 spot.
Things will hinge on how they fare against Brendon McCullum’s side in his last series early next year and the outcome of England’s tour of South Africa.
As for the Windies, one can’t help but root for young skipper Jason Holder. He has called for patience with his young team. “We need to understand the position we’re in. We have a very young side, very inexperienced, and we have some guys that we need to build a core of players around. Once we understand that it’s easier to move forward,” Holder told espncricinfo.
Earnest and up for the task, there is plenty of depth in Holder’s statements. In Jomel Warrican, they have a promising left-arm spinner. Against England, earlier at home they showed that if the middle order play resilient, patient Test cricket, they can push their opponents over the edge.
There are millions who are waiting for West Indies cricket to get back on the road. Payment disputes, Primma Donna cricketers, and the disingenuous approach to the longest format in the game have all played to their downfall. It is not like they have an explosive young crop of players coming through either.
There are even talks about the Islands disbanding and West Indies Cricket reaching its inevitable demise in 10 years time. With little efforts made by the International Cricket Board (ICC) to spread its wings, the game can’t afford to lose a member.
It is a long hard road to resurrection but, will there ever be one for one of Cricket’s first superpowers?