West Indies supporters have seen plenty of false dawns in recent times but there is more than usual optimism on the breeze as West Indies prepare to welcome international cricket back to the Caribbean with the visit of Sri Lanka.
It was the manner of the victory in Bangladesh that has set the pulses racing. Some keen observers detect a new air of determination and resilience under stand-in skipper Kraigg Brathwaite, new boys Nkrumah Bonner, Kyle Mayers and the inexperienced Josh Da Silva.
Now the men, who put on 250 at Bombay in 1975 have joined forces again to call for that unexpected two-zip series win to mark a fresh start for Windies Test cricket, as a wandering, inevitably incohesive squad of bubble-to-bubble cricketers return home for another two-Test series.
West Indies’ greatest captain, Sir Clive Lloyd, and his wicket-keeper, Deryck Murray, have called for Brathwaite to retain the captaincy for the series in order to give Jason Holder the opportunity to recover from his self-confessed mental tiredness and concentrate on his all-round contribution as a No 6 batsman and strike bowler.
Lloyd, who was once a selector and instrumental in guiding Holder to the captaincy, says he would be happy for Brathwaite to remain in the role. Speaking on a TV programme in the Caribbean, he said: “Kraigg would be slightly ahead because of what they have done with the team they had there [in Bangladesh]. It is a beautiful position to be in.
“Jason is a guy who would not sit down and say ‘I have got a bad deal, a raw deal’. You can’t get rid of these guys that did such a marvellous job. The point is you cannot just think of this as a flash in the pan. These were excellent performances.”
Murray, a man with considerable clout in Caribbean politics, added: “Kraigg pulled that team together, as captain. We now need to see how we can capture that team work, that team spirit that showed itself on the field. How can we capture that behind the scenes and make the right choices.”
There is also an emerging consensus that previous favourites like Darren Bravo, Roston Chase and Shemar Brooks should not be given an automatic pass back into the team.
In Bonner, a deserved man of the series against Bangladesh, West Indies may have discovered a No 3 with a real appetite for the rigours of Test cricket and the technique to deliver runs and the time at the crease any top order needs.
Mayers will be keen to show that his incredible match-winning double century was no one-hit wonder and that he is worthy of mention in the same breath as another man who doubled on debut, the legendary Lawrence Rowe. Wicketkeeper-batsman, Da Silva, a relative veteran having played a Test in New Zealand before the Bangladesh thrillers, has shown a maturity beyond his years in circumstances when any mistake could be fatal.
These players were all on the bench last summer in England, but have proved that they have the right stuff. Given the poor recent returns of pre-pandemic incumbents, the time may be right to rally round some less familiar West Indians.
With the caveat that there’s white-ball biffing to come before the Test coin goes up in Antigua, here’s Guerilla Cricket’s XI for the first Test starting on March 21:
- Kraigg Brathwaite (c)
- John Campbell
- Nkrumah Bonner
- Kyle Mayers
- Jermaine Blackwood
- Jason Holder
- Joshua Da Silva
- Alzarri Joseph
- Rahkeem Cornwall
- Kemar Roach or Jomel Warrican
- Shannon Gabriel