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March 22, 2000
Even in the 21st century, with all the technology around and so many might be using performance enhancing stuff to boost one's energy, real old fashioned miracles still happen, with real blood, real sweat and real tears. By the time the West Indies cricket team and the cricket fraternity overall are finished with Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, there will just be enough of them left to be made saints, for only the gods, or perhaps the only real God, could have scripted such an effort, a comeback and such a result for the West Indies. While the young pups, Reon King and Franklyn Rose did their thing too, the inspiration had to have come from the "old boys", Curtly "Amby" Ambrose and Courtney "Cuddy" Walsh.
Between them, Walsh and Ambrose have 202 Test match appearances and 806 wickets, at a median average of about 23.20 runs per wicket. That is production of the highest order. When these guys eventually stop playing, no two fast bowlers anywhere could even think of coming near, much less surpassing them, as a productive team. Ambrose and Walsh are made of tremendous, maybe even stuff.
In the meantime, the West Indies cricket team were very tough in this 1st Test match against Zimbabwe. They never let up and as a unit, they were brilliant. Perhaps the most poignant instant in time, after the victory, was to see all of the people of Trinidad & Tobago, some 4000 of them, stand up and applaud when the entire squad circled the Oval in appreciation of the support, despite some earlier insular calls because of the absence of any T&T player in the team.
It was a wonderful scene and should be patented. It also rewarded some effort from a bunch of cricketers committed to working hard, now, and to produce. Those that attended the game got some history in the process, as a bonus.
I have never played in a Test match like those that the West Indies win these days. Somehow, our team always managed to avert the pressures of winning which are present of late with this West Indies cricket team. Most of our Test matches ended in the 4th day, and we won most. There are very few Test matches in Clive Lloyd's captaincy, or even Viv Richards tenure, which went to the 5th day. Normally, we lost those. While they might have been clinical, and the enjoyment was great in winning, most of it was boring stuff. This "new" West Indies team, when they do win, win with enthusiasm and tremendous excitement for everyone.
Starting from just a few years back, we see that there is some trend to the madness. In 1992, incidentally, Jimmy Adams's first Test, the West Indies just beat South Africa at the Kensington Oval, Barbados, when they should have lost, thanks mainly to the efforts of Adams, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. All South Africa needed then was about 200 runs to win in a day. In 1992/3 in Australia, Courtney Walsh had Craig McDermott out at Brisbane with Australia needing only two runs to go 2-0 in the series. The West Indies eventually won that series. In 1994, Ambrose destroyed England at the Queen's Park Oval, in Trinidad & Tobago, again when England should have won, needing just under 200 to win in a day. In 1999, Brian Lara played two magnificent match-winning innings at Sabina Park in Jamaica and then at the Kensington Oval in Barbados to pull the West Indies from the brink of defeat to great victories against England. Now, the West Indies win this game at the Queen's Park Oval against the Zimbabweans, with the tourists only needing 99 to win. One could only believe that the present West Indian team operates better when under severe external pressures. Indeed, these pressures could be the stimuli that pushes the West Indies cricket team to extreme heights, or depths, as the case may be. The present players must be masochists, as they seem to love pain and pressures.
New Coach Roger Harper asked all to be patient. His thoughts were sound. While all will still agree that the batting is not doing a good job for the West Indies, at least the bowling attack is doing a superb job, as always. To be honest, there have been very few times when the batting has won a game for the West Indies of late, or indeed, even in the past, except for Lara's exploits in Barbados. Your guess is as good as mine as to when the present team will bat well.
Perhaps what is more stunning is the fact that both Ambrose and Walsh are still producing wickets, pressures and tension, even after over 200 Tests and 800 wickets between them. They may not be as quick as they used to be, but they certainly are still as cunning, and seem to be passing down the correct things to their younger fast bowling partners, Franklyn Rose and Reon King. The latter two bowled beautifully in the second innings, especially after they had bowled so badly in the first. Adjusting one's output is a very important part of growing up and learning quickly. They did it well.
Spare a thought for the Zimbabweans. Even with their lack of Test experience, only 40 so far, they still managed to shake the West Indies up severely. These two teams as evenly matched, even if that means that one has to then realize, honestly, that if that is true, then the West Indies must be less powerful than in even recent times or than we expect them to be. It did make for a wonderful Test match, though. Andy Flower, Zimbabwe's captain, acknowledged that he was very disappointed at the outcome. So was his Coach, Dave Houghton. They should have been. Unfortunately for them, they do not have much time to regroup. Jamaica's Sabina Park should be even more tough on the Test rookies. They are pugnacious, though, so the West Indies should not be complacent.
Finally, Jimmy Adams deserves a lot of credit. This must have been a very tough Test match and personal test for him. He, and his guys, hung tough. At least, they believed in themselves and deserved 100% for effort. No-one could fault the West Indies for the fielding efforts of the last day of that 1st Test match. Once the bowlers got wind of the attitude of the fieldsmen, they reacted well. It was a good win for the West Indies. Many have suggested that there should be no fanfare, since, after all, Zimbabwe are only at the bottom of the international cricket ladder, while the West Indies are near the top. While that is true, the West Indies are finding themselves again too. Their confidence recently was perhaps at the foot of that ladder too, so, like Zimbabwe, they also have to climb up somewhat in belief of self. Nothing happens quickly, but all things in time. Especially with the recent situations in our cricket, this was a win to enjoy, especially by the players. At least, let us give them that pleasure.
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches
Bide your time, put your body behind each delivery, and play with the batsman's mind