When I was growing up, I had two major passions regarding my sport. One was my lifelong love for Liverpool Football Club which will never die. The other was the West Indies cricket team. Being of West Indian heritage I was brought up with it. My dad use to live, sleep and breathe it and of course, this was passed down to me.
For 20 years the Windies dominated cricket. I can only say I feel privileged to have been around to witness them in their pomp. As great as all that brilliance was to see, to have been around their continual demise over the last two decades has been horrible.
It’s never made sense to me how a region awash with so much talent could sink to such levels of mediocrity. To see the Windies alongside the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at the bottom of world cricket is just so painful. No disrespect to those countries but the West Indies should not be there.
I remember the days when the Windies-England Test series were the highlight of the summer. They were huge and the Windies always won. I would be waiting in anticipation for weeks beforehand. How things have changed?
My attitude towards West Indies cricket has got so bad that I didn’t even know they were to be in England this summer until about a week before. I just thought what’s the point? They’re going to get hammered. It’ll just be the latest in a long line of embarrassment for them.
The fact they surrendered the first Test inside 3 days just confirmed all my fears and I just switched off completely. I didn’t want to hear anything. I just wanted the pain over with and fast.
So we had the 2nd Test. I tried my best to avoid it but on the grapevine I’d heard that the Windies were actually doing ok and had bowled England for 258. I was quite happy but still expected England to bowl them out for under 150! Somehow the Windies made 427, a lead of 169. What? This couldn’t be happening. They could actually win it.
Of course, just as I start to think the unthinkable, the Windies revert to type. England declare on 490-8 in their 2nd innings and lead by 321. The Windies will need 322 to win the Test match on that notorious Headingley pitch. Not a chance in hell. It was a very sporting declaration by England captain, Joe Root. Not even the most ardent Windies fan could foresee what happened next.
After losing some quick wickets, the Windies steadied the ship behind brilliant batting from Shai Hope and Kraigg Braithwaite. I was at work during the innings but kept going on Twitter for updates. They had reached 200 with just three wickets down. This is on! They could do this! Then it was 250 with just 4 down. Hope was just relentless. Such concentration. With the light fading, the 300 was up and still 6 wickets in hand.
I still thought they would chuck it away but despite losing another wicket, the Windies held on to claim an incredible victory in near darkness at Headingley. It’s fair to say that England and in fact the whole of the cricketing world were stunned.
For me, almost as important as the win, was the fact that the Windies were competitive once again. To see such a turnaround just days after the farce of the first Test was great to see. It was really nice to hear so many respected voices within the game saying cricket needs a competitive West Indies team.
This was a fantastic result but it cannot be an isolated one. They have to build on this. This level of commitment and desire has to be the norm not the exception. They had the chance to build on this in the third and final Test last week.
I fully expected England to bounce back and win but I wanted was to see a West Indies team competing and giving the home side a game. For 2 days it was just that. The Windies were bowled out for 123 on day 1 but fought back to have England 46-4 at the close. In the end England made 181 and then bowled out the Windies for 177 leaving them to get 107 to win. They knocked these off comfortably with the loss of just the one wicket. The Windies ran out of steam but well played England.
Their star was evergreen fast bowler, James Anderson, who claimed a landmark 500th Test match wicket during that final Test. A magnificent achievement from a magnificent bowler. The question is how long can he keep going. The Ashes to come for him in the winter.
So to summarise, while it was great to see the West Indies winning and competing, it’s way too early to say that they are back. As I said before, this level of performance must be the norm. They’ve shown that they can travel and play well. They need to keep this up and then try make their home a fortress. It’s a long way off at present but you have to be encouraged. Let’s see where they are in 6 months. Well done boys. You’ve given us Windies fans hope.