One of the most enjoyable features in sport is the unpredictability of the result. Sporting contests are played to win and quite often the underdog wins and turns the game upside down depending on the magnitude of the disparity between the two rivals. Cricket has often been referred to as the game of glorious uncertainties!
England’s cricketers are visiting the West Indies (WI) on a tour that includes a three-Test series, the first of which was scheduled for January 23–27. It was finished in four days.
WI returned from Bangladesh last month where they were comprehensively beaten two games to nil in a two-Test series. Immediately prior to that tournament, they visited India where demolition by the home team, winning three-nil in a three-Test series, was all completed in three days of scheduled five-day matches!
I accept India is the world’s number one rated team in Tests, however, Bangladesh’s rating in that format is one below WI which is at eight in the 11 nation standings.
England’s Test standing in the world is at number three. Hence the bets would have been heavily in favour of England to win this present series convincingly, bar bad weather or any other unforeseen circumstances.
The first Test bowled off at Kensington Oval, Barbados and WI whipped the Englishmen comprehensively by 381 runs. It was a Test to savour for all of us punch-drunk fans in the Caribbean who are unaccustomed to winning against top nations, especially by such a wide margin.
Although they beat the Englishmen in their last encounter at this same venue three years ago, it was the sheer monumental proportion of the win and the magnificent individual performances that struck the suffering cricket fan with a deep sense of joy and satisfaction!
The danger now is in the whole idea of such an overwhelming victory playing havoc with the team’s subconscious, opening up spaces for the invasion of conceit and pride which could lead to a letting down of the guard and allowing reduced effort to take over.
I don’t believe this will happen. Skipper Jason Holder reflected after the game that one victory does not a summer make. Therein lies the strength of this team, the utterances and the maturity of the captain!
Holder was tremendous! His cricket was of a high calibre and his captaincy was composed and strong. However, I must add that having bowled the Englishmen for 77 in the first innings and achieving a lead of 212 runs, one can find leadership comforting.
But it was not here where he commanded his presence but when he strode in to bat with the score at 120/6 in the second innings, then to pulverise the bowling to the tune of a personal double century and a partnership of 295 with Shane Dowrich, the wicket-keeper/batsman, and declaring his team’s innings at 415/6, that revealed the quality of the man’s leadership.
He played a captain’s innings and took the game completely away from England when they were valiantly trying to claw their way back into contention. Sheer brilliance!
It was Test cricket like that which we’ve been longing to see from our players for the longest while; and the WI fan must be completely satisfied to witness the maturity and skill in that particular partnership!
Holder shows maturity
The pessimistic among us, of whom there is no shortage, would say that this was a fluke, a flash in the pan, and that WI will be back to their losing ways soon enough by the next Test.
I will go out on a limb and state that I don’t believe so. I base my opinion strictly on the maturity of Holder. He always had the ability to play cricket at the highest level and his personality was always one that seemed commendable, friendly and kind.
Yet he was too young at 23 to be burdened with the leadership role, not because of his age but his not yet having established himself as a player on the WI team.
Regardless of his fine disposition, one must be secure in one’s standing to be able to perform well in such a responsible position. He accepted the role given to him at the stage it was given and acknowledged the obligation of the assignment without once flinching or making excuses.
He has matured as a leader and the break he had from the game for the past couple of months, when he was sidelined through a shoulder injury, has brought him back a self-confident leader and someone who has studied the game and certainly improved his tactical acumen on the field.
While he did an efficient job marshalling his forces to bowl out the Englishmen for 77 and reduced them to 246 in the second innings, it’s left to be seen when the opposition is on top.
Whatever, there’s no faulting the captain and his troops on an exceptional victory!