Darren Sammy’s youthful West Indies show signs of revival
West Indian cricket's current crop have shown enough early promise to instil belief that they could grow into a solid unit
West Indian cricket’s spectacular fall from grace since their years of dominance in the 1970s and 80s has been well documented.
They have celebrated individual stars in average teams since those heady days but have yet to discover a collective unit able to dominate Test cricket. Not since the days of Holding, Marshall, Garner, Roberts and Richards have the West Indies enjoyed a truly successful side.
Lara, Walsh, Ambrose and Gayle may have held the island’s heart at one time or another but, regardless of their considerable talents, they weren’t able to inspire an entire side for a prolonged period.
However, the current West Indies squad have put in some impressive performances over their last two series’, without always enjoying the taste of victory.
Darren Sammy’s men delivered the first West Indian series win on the road in a number of years when they beat Bangladesh earlier this winter. They then followed that up with a 2-0 series defeat by India, resurgent after their recent disappointment in England, and ran MS Dhoni and co. a lot closer than the score suggests.
The current crop are young, gifted and have shown enough early promise to instil belief that they could grow into a solid unit.
Their young batsmen have really caught the eye. Openers Adrian Barath and Kraigg Brathwaite are 21 and 18 years old. Both made two half centuries each in India and Barath has already recorded his maiden Test ton inside 10 matches.
While a solid opening partnership is developing, the batting card continues to harbour talented youth further down the order.
Kirk Edwards may be 26 but is youthful in experience. Yet the No3 has two centuries and three 50s in six Test matches and has nailed down the most important position in the order for the foreseeable future with his weight of runs.
The real star of the show though bats at No4. Twenty-two-year-old Darren Bravo, half brother to all-rounder Dwayne, has burst on to the world stage early on in his career.
He is already being compared to Brian Lara and the great left-hander himself has tipped Bravo for success. After Bravo’s 136 at Eden Gardens in the second Test he had matched Lara’s career run for run (941) and had exactly the same average (47.05) after 12 matches.
This is no pre-cursor to guarantee Darren success but it is by no means a shabby start. Bravo led the West Indies in India, scoring 404 runs at 67.33 with two centuries – and it is clear that the future of West Indies batting will revolve around the supremely talented left-hander.
It is an extremely brave decision in Test cricket to load the top four with such inexperience. But the West Indies should be commended for sticking to their beliefs and trusting these young men who, so far, haven’t let anyone down.
Shiv Chanderpaul, the perfect role model for this young side, and Marlon Samuels form the old heads of the line-up and there is talent waiting in the wings to replace them once they exit the stage.
When you also factor in the players that are missing either through injury, selection inconsistency or board dispute it is uplifting to think that this West Indies side could be at the beginning of a very profitable period.
These young men, backed by solid bowling from Sammy, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and Devendra Bishoo, haven’t quite learnt the cut throat instinct needed to win matches yet. But they are showing signs of a West Indian revival that is long overdue.
If Gayle, Bravo snr and Sarwan were to return, the West Indies would have a squad to match any other in Test cricket. But if the young bucks keep performing like this, they may not get a look in.