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A THORNY ISSUE: Test win brings hope for the future

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Test win brings hope for the future

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THE WEST INDIES must be lauded for their most significant and positive result in Test cricket for almost 18 months.

Not so long ago we were fearing the worst for West Indies cricket when there was talk about a two-tiered Test system which would have seen the West Indies joining the minnows and nondescript of international cricket in what would have amounted to a second division.

Our pride was already badly wounded from not being among the qualifiers for next year’s Champions Trophy because of our lowly rating. That hurt because we won it in 2004 and to think that 13 years later we would only be spectators was part of the referendum of how far we had fallen from grace in the longer forms of the game.

A second World T20 title in India brought some redemption because we could still boast of being kings of something. We still had a thread of hope to hang on to. If we felt we were drowning we still had a straw to cling to.

Simmons’ sacking

However, once we began the recent series against Pakistan, there was no recognition at all that we were World champions. We looked more like chumps. Some blamed our lame performances in the T20s and the ODIs on the last-minute firing of former head coach, Phil Simmons, ahead of the tour and the adjustments that had to be made in the interim.

Experienced all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard both offered grim summaries on what they felt were the reasons for the poor performances and manager Joel Garner dismissed their suggestions with the venom of the yorkers he delivered in his heyday.

Going into the Test series, nobody gave the West Indies a chance of avoiding a possible whitewash based on what they saw in the limited overs series, seemingly low morale and their wretched record in Tests since May 2015 when they recorded their last victory.

Plus, Pakistan had risen to the high end of the standings and they are at their most devastating playing in Abu Dhabi, which has become their home base since being banished from playing in their country after political violence erupted in 2011 and the obvious security concerns that arose subsequently.

So it looked like more bad news coming our way.

However, it appeared that the technical staff were able to instil a completely different mindset in the players because they were extremely competitive and self assured and looked a match for the Pakistanis.

In fact, the consensus was that they should have won the first Test but their rare resilience shown in the Test arena was something to build on and to carry forward to the second Test. There was to be huge disappointment in that too, forcing coach Roddy Estwick to plead with supporters to be patient and to give them more time.

Honestly, the five years he was asking for seemed too much, considering that we have been struggling to make a notable mark since 1995.

Within that context, I understood some of the flak he took from the fans because being in the wilderness that long can be very frustrating, especially when you look at our previous dominance of world cricket for 15 years.

That said, Estwick had pointed to the individual performances despite losing the second Test and observed that with a greater collective effort and playing for sustained rather than sporadic periods in matches, the team had the potential to be competitive again but they needed time.

We won the third Test and avoided the whitewash. A great occasion to celebrate. It may not have been enough proof that we have turned the corner but surely enough for us to focus on the positives after such a lengthy drought in Test cricket.

Brathwaite’s record

Kraigg Brathwaite’s world record of carrying his bat twice in the same innings is epic and should be toasted. I know Brathwaite isn’t one to be complacent and I believe he will build on this foundation and become more respected and dominant going forward.

The supporting roles played by Shane Dowrich and Roston Chase with the bat and particularly the bowling of captain Jason Holder are the stories worth highlighting.

His first victory as captain in 12 matches is a major milestone in light of the rumours that he was going to lose his pick in this respect. This will build his confidence as a leader, notwithstanding that his first five-wicket haul in Tests was a huge achievement. He, too, will know that his journey has only just begun but at least he has a blueprint to use as a guide.

Generally speaking, the likes of Darren Bravo and Jermaine Blackwood had their special moments and it should be noted the bowlers consistently contained the hosts to manageable scores. This was definitely part of the team’s Achilles heel so we can report some progress.

These small steps can become giant leaps for the future if we capitalise and grow from the momentum of the triumph in the last Test.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning sports journalist.