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June 8, 2014

Caribbean second comings

Roger Sawh
Sulieman Benn stormed his way back with 37 wickets in seven matches in the 2013-14 regional four-day competition  © WICB Media/Ashley Allen
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Easter in the Caribbean is an enchanting time of year. Signs of life and energy permeate the atmosphere: kites of all shapes and sizes swirl in the breeze, and families contribute to the cheer by being more engaged than usual in the hustle and bustle of life. My last visit to the Caribbean a few weeks ago coincided with Easter, and those kites and that zest reminded me of the ubiquitous theme of the season - resurrection, and the message of a second coming, a rebirth, and a celebrated return.

The idea of glorious returns got my mental gears turning; returns, or second chances, in the world of cricket, are not that common. For every successful comeback, there are many stories that don't enjoy pleasant endings. It is inherent to the über-competitive nature of the game that progressing to the highest level is very difficult, and the re-attainment of such a position is even harder. Nevertheless, the West Indies Test squad for the beginning of the 2014 home season boasts a variety of notable reappearances after prolonged absences.

I can hardly believe that it has been over three years since Dwayne Bravo and Sulieman Benn last donned West Indies Test caps (both last played against Sri Lanka in December 2010). One would have to rewind a year earlier, to November 2009 against Australia, to spot Jerome Taylor with the red cherry in hand in a Test. These three, however, have been recalled to the Test fold, and while Bravo is not among the final 13 for the first Test (due to continuing injury rehabilitation), all three renaissance stories are edifying.

It is sometimes the case that time and obsolescence can confine players to sporting extinction. Benn seemed destined to be an example of such a scenario, as a few poor performances, coupled with a temperamental attitude and the emergence of Shane Shillingford and Devendra Bishoo as formidable Test spinners, seemed to drive him out of reckoning. A strong will to return, though, is a powerful motivator to resist the push from contention, and the tall left-armer has demonstrated the skill and desire to be back in Windies whites.

In fact, in the most recent regional four-day season, he took the second-most wickets and seems to have grown as a professional. His story is telling - while the passage of time is inevitable, it does not have to dictate that a career is erased and irretrievable. Growth and consistency can open the door to renewed opportunities even though time appears to have already expired.

It can also be the case that careers come to a halt without a straightforward explanation, as many factors can convene to affect involvement. The Test path of Bravo is instructive, because trying to pinpoint a single reason for his prolonged absence is painstaking. While he is the West Indies' ODI captain and a highly successful T20 cricketer, Bravo has played a mere 40 Tests since his 2004 debut. The explanations are abundant: his Test statistics suggest uncertainty about his ability to take wickets and score runs; Darren Sammy's presence for years likely minimised his chances for Test selection based on a redundant skill set; global T20 participation and a regular absence from regional first-class cricket may have demonstrated limited interest in Tests; et al.

All of those reasons, though, amount to naught - second chances can sometimes come from a gut feeling or opinions gathered from different but related arenas. Given the great Tony Cozier's recent lament about the lack of quality allrounders in West Indian cricket, Bravo is simply too skilled a cricketer to not take another chance on. In the same way that careers can end on a whim, so too can they be resuscitated when all may have seemed lost. God-given talent and production (albeit in other formats) can revive chances, and suggest that no door is truly closed when it comes to sports.

Notwithstanding the circumstances that push players out of contention, comeback stories always have great charm, for they signify an unyielding spirit. Jerome "Bobby" Taylor's return to the fore is a classic case of a never-say-die attitude, even though many would have mentally condemned him to retirement years ago. With a sleek bowling action and the batting ability to bludgeon a century from No. 8, Taylor's conspicuous absence from cricket, especially Tests, has been nothing short of bizarre. It is difficult to say why he has been missing in action since 2009, but injury has played a dominant role; his full participation in the regional Super50 and four-day tournaments while taking a fair number of wickets, though, has been heartening. His return to the senior ranks is laudable after such a long period away, and represents the nature of second comings in sport - players who went from being bright prospects to being forgotten can re-emerge as worldly veterans.

Accomplishments like Taylor's go beyond mere cricketing efficiency - they are a triumph of the body over barriers, the ego over condemnation, and the mind over fears and scepticism. The potential revitalisation of a career is the sort of incentive that inspires many to continue to push themselves towards a shot at return and eventual redemption.

The second comings of Benn, Bravo and Taylor are just the latest instalments in instances of refreshed careers, and for the sake of fans, one hopes that they can inspire the likes of Bishoo, Simmons and Barath (among many others) from the West Indies, and so many across the cricketing globe, to make their ways back. No career is "done" until it is officially called to an end; an opportunity may always come knocking. It may not be today, or tomorrow, or next season, or next year. It may not be as planned, or as hoped, or as dreamed. It may not ever happen. But as cricket, and sports at large, continues to show, it can happen - and that's inspiration in itself.

This is my first piece on the Cordon, and I feel honoured. I am but a West Indies fan who watches cricket through maroon-tinted glasses, and I thank everyone who has helped me to have the extraordinary opportunity to share my thoughts. I especially thank my dad for teaching me about this marvellous sport several years ago. Here's to many ideas shared with you, the readers, for a long time to come

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Roger Sawh is a law student in Canada. He writes at www.sawhoncricket.com. @sawhoncricket

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Keywords: Selection

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Posted by   on (June 10, 2014, 23:11 GMT)

I am just amaze when I read some these comments. That is same team, you think because Sammy is gone that would make a difference. All of these players have be tried, TESTED, and found wanting????

Posted by V_for on (June 10, 2014, 14:25 GMT)

Roger, good article but you have not addressed the question of why this happens. As well as the 3 mentioned above, Gayle and Samuels both made successful returns following lengthy absences.

My view is that the modern young WI cricketer does not have the maturity to play test cricket. Talent, yes but maturity, no. This leads to a cycle of talent being unearthed, pushed into the test team, being dropped after a poor run and then having to return years later.

The coaching set up is not capable of dealing with specific technical deficiencies nor do selectors have the patience to stick with talent. So the young WI cricketer has to go off, address any technical issues, grow as a professional and build sufficient character to make a push for the test team. Most importantly, he will also have to secure his financial future by way of T20 first. The maturity / character required to do this probably explains why success comes 2nd time round for many.

Posted by KeepingitReal on (June 9, 2014, 12:59 GMT)

It perplexes me that so many West Indians talk about Jerome Taylor as though he is special. Ottis Gibson called him "world class". His test bowling average is worse than Sammy's, and his major hauls are at Sabina Park. Our standards seem too low. We need to celebrate batting averages of 45+ and bowling averages of 30 or less. How can we be looking to players like Taylor, Dwayne Bravo, Benn, etc as standards with these test averages?

Posted by rakaiaroyal on (June 9, 2014, 6:46 GMT)

Good stuff Roger, very well written. I too love a good comeback story. I never realised Taylor had been out of Tests for so long. Good luck with your future writings.

Posted by mus_tard on (June 8, 2014, 16:27 GMT)

Bishoo has really lost his form over the last 2-3 years. Yes he did pick up 14 wickets in a single match this past season but take those away and his stats were very ordinary. Barath on the other hand has failed so much that hege talent has even lost his place in the regional team. He has been replaced at the top by Evin Lewis. Just imagine, Barath's FC average after test debut was 46.28 after 42 innings. Since then, he has played in 62 more innings, scored about 1350 runs. But more scary, during this 62 innings, his FC average dropped from 46.28 to 32.40. He is a huge talent but something has seriously gone wrong since his debut.

Posted by   on (June 8, 2014, 11:27 GMT)

i am realy happy after seeing these men back in team and best of luck

Posted by mrhamilton on (June 8, 2014, 10:25 GMT)

All new beginnings in Windies cricket seem to revolve around the class of 2000-2003, Taylor,bravo snr,Samuels,best,gayle,Edwards,sarwan, to name but a few.these guys did not have the pride in their test team of their predecessors but they had talent in abundance.if these guys back than had had determination and pride in the team back than, the Windies team story of 2003-2013 would not be such a sorry one...kemar roach too is now a five year veteran.this partnership with Taylor needs to last a few years so the next generation can finally emerge cos Gabriel sure ain't it

Posted by vatsap on (June 8, 2014, 10:15 GMT)

What happened to Bishoo ? What happened to Barath ? They seemed to be honest triers.

Posted by lukiboy on (June 8, 2014, 8:21 GMT)

What has happened to Bishoo? He seemed like a really promising and talented cricketer, good turn and control; not all that common in a leg spinner. Is he still playing domestic cricket; where is he?

Posted by kentjones on (June 8, 2014, 8:06 GMT)

This is certainly a chance for WI to redeem themselves after the recent disappointing performances against India and NZ.

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