West Indies' youngsters come of age
West Indies have won a Test series away from home for the first time in eight years, the previous occasion being the heart-stopping 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in 2003. After several upheavals, changes in leadership, player strikes, suspensions and a dearth of trophies, it fell to a young team to give Caribbean cricket a rare sniff of success.
Of course, the 229-run win in Mirpur left captain Darren Sammy pleased no end. "The positives from this tour have to be the way the batsmen went about their business. Not just putting the runs on the board, but also spending time at the crease," he said. "It feels really good to win. We left home hoping to play well, we achieved our goal. We always knew we were in for a challenge, with the way Shakib [Al Hasan] and Tamim [Iqbal] batted especially."
The discipline displayed by the bowlers, said Sammy, had a major bearing on Bangladesh's batsmen playing rash shots that brought about their downfall. "In the first innings we didn't concede any extras. I don't recall this ever happening before. That shows the discipline in the bowling unit."
Devendra Bishoo, the ICC's Emerging Player of the Year who picked up his first five-for in Test cricket in Mirpur, heaped praise on his captain and support staff. "When I started off, I was not bowling that well," he said. "The coaching staff and skipper just told me to believe in myself, to do what I knew best. I just had to vary my pace and just be containing."
It worked for Bishoo, and for the team. The time invested in the likes of Bishoo, Kirk Edwards, Kraigg Brathwaite, Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo, that they were given the space to do their own thing, has paid off. Now, slowly, they seem to be growing comfortable with their role in the team at the game's highest level.
A series win over Bangladesh wouldn't have sounded too flash in the last decade, but with their inexperienced top-order and a thin bowling attack, West Indies were always facing a tricky battle against Bangladesh, in conditions that heavily favoured the hosts. The youngsters, though, responded adequately. Following a drawn Test series with Pakistan, they impressed in a lost cause against India before coming to Bangladesh, a team they had lost to in 2009.
Simmons led the way with his twin successes in the one-day series, with a little help from the experienced Marlon Samuels and Ravi Rampaul, and a burst of wickets from Kemar Roach in the second ODI. Bangladesh succumbed to their own follies, but one had to applaud the way Simmons efficiently anchored both the limited-overs games in Dhaka. After the blip in Chittagong - where West Indies were shot out for 61 in the third ODI and lorded over for most part of the Test - the opening partnership in Mirpur between 18-year-old Brathwaite and Kieran Powell, a last-minute replacement for Simmons, set the tone for what turned out to be a fine Test win.
Edwards built on the platform with a proper No. 3 innings; he held the innings together and strung together a series of small stands as he reached his second Test century in only his third game. Brathwaite had batted to a plan as well, occupying the crease for as long as possible and giving the more attacking Powell a chance to open up his shoulders.
Darren Bravo, whose batting style has often been compared to that of Brian Lara, too, came of age in this series. The pressure was on him, with cynics claiming that it was only the mannerisms of Lara that could be found in him, that the comparison ended there. He responded with a knock of 195 in the second innings that set up the big win, with some of his shots - especially the lofted drive down the ground - showing us just why the comparison with the legend was made in the first place.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka