By Rae Roberts
It’s a timely West Indies Test series victory against Bangladesh and above all, a great tonic of inspiration for the Caribbean game. The players and coaching staff deserve maximum credit for rising to what was predicted to be the most daunting challenge and conquering their opponents on their beloved home ground. The victory is very special considering that few, if any, gave this second-string Kraigg Brathwaite-led team a chance of even drawing a match.
Eleven of the first-choice players chose not to travel to Bangladesh in fear of the COVID-19 pandemic thus forcing the selectors to include six debutants and others with little or no international cricket experience. Branded the Tigers, Bangladesh’s reputation at home is second to none. They have triumphed over Australia, England, and India in their home in recent years. Their cricket pitches are all tailor-made and exploited by an awesome team of crafty spinners. Any doubt about a huge appetite for success at home was magnificently demonstrated with a humiliating whitewash of West Indies in their three-match One-Day Series. Not a single West Indian batsman scored 50 in an innings and the team failed to register a score of 200 in any of the matches.
At the end of that series, some people across the Caribbean argued that Cricket West Indies did itself a great injustice by proceeding with the tour of Bangladesh without their leading players. That Jason Mohammed captained One Day side was pathetic! However, the cricketers chosen for the Test matches were focused, and oh, how they silenced the critics. Their victory in the first test was most memorable, scoring 395. The unforgettable star was Barbadian Kyle Mayers who wrote his name into the history books, becoming just the 6th player on debut to record a double century.
For many, that victory was a fairytale West Indies performance. Just about everyone had written off this Phil Simmons-coached team. Well if it’s nice, do it twice and so did West Indies, defeating the Tigers in the second test in a thrilling contest. One has admired the courage and awesome fighting spirit of the team. Coach Phil Simmons proved his worth. His selections for each game had merit. Replacing the experienced fast bowler Kemar Roach with his junior Alzarri Joseph in the second test, paid dividends. Thanks to Joseph’s late order partnership with the wicketkeeper Joshua De Silver, West Indies got a score of 409. The two batted purposefully. DeSilver scored 92, and Joseph 82. Nkrumah Bonner 90, had earlier anchored the innings, displaying great maturity in only his second test.
Among the bowlers, maximum credit has to be given to spinner Rahkeem Cornwall who led the way with another four wickets, finishing the match with nine. Bangladesh batsmen launched a positive attack in their chase of the 231 victory target. Their openers were aggressive taking their score to 50 runs in less than 50 balls. Team Kraigg Brathwaite’s leadership was tested and he responded positively. He kept fieldsmen in attacking positions and bowled himself at two key periods, taking wickets and equally important pushing Bangladesh back on the defence. His use of bowlers was crucial. Jomel Warrican lack of penetration in his first spell did not deter the captain from giving a second and third spell of bowling which earned him three wickets.
Bangladesh is no world-beater except on their home ground. Nevertheless, this victory is a wonderful tonic for the West Indies. The players demonstrated grit and fight to conquer the Tigers. One would hope that the West Indies can build on their success with Sri Lanka coming to the Caribbean next month. The CG Insurance Super50 has attracted the best players hence the selectors can choose a full-strength West Indies team, but surely some of the victorious men from that Bangladesh series will rival the so-called top players. Congratulations coach Phil Simmons, and the team – we salute you!