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July 8, 2007
Instead, it has arrived just as their cricket touched levels of intensity and quality rare in these long days of decline.
As is clear from their record in the different forms of the game, shorter is better for the West Indies of recent vintage. Yet the metamorphosis from the time the depressing Tests were condensed into the Twenty20s and the ODIs was remarkable and thoroughly unexpected.
Apart from Shivnarine Chanderpaul's exceptional, single-minded run-gathering, the Tests were characterised by the misfortune of captain Ramnaresh Sarwan's injury, an arctic climate and a general indifference that led to cricket of appalling mediocrity.
In their place came a sudden resurgence, significantly accompanied by better weather. For the first time in a month, the sun even shone all day yesterday as they secured the ODI series with another commanding victory in the third and final match.
Competitive contests against opponents with a record only marginally better than their own in the abbreviated game clearly do not signal the sudden revival of West Indies cricket. But the performances in the last five matches have erased some of the negatives that previously hung heavy over this tour.
To use the phrase so popular among contemporary captains and coaches, they can now take several positives from their stay.
Such a fightback required a spirit that seemed to have deserted the West Indies throughout their failed campaign in their own World Cup and the Tests that immediately followed.
The repeated, disruptive arguments between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), the inability of the WICB's management to manage even the most straightforward task, the general lack of leadership at all levels and the players' slackness were all factors to compound the general misfortune.
The renewed spirit had to be seen to be believed. The celebrations yesterday as one brilliant catch followed another and certain victory approached were reminiscent of those at the Oval almost four years ago when the West Indies won the ICC Champions Trophy, also defeating England in the final.
The joy was shared throughout by a few hundred boisterous West Indians, gathered in a section besides the pavilion and waving the varied flags of their birthplaces.
Such scenes were once common when the invincible teams of Frank Worrell and Garry Sobers and of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards carried all before them in this land.
|Not everything has fallen into place and there is plenty of work to be done back home before the West Indies can begin their long climb back - on respect between administrators and players, on infrastructure and on the creation of a professional league.|
They had all but disappeared until yesterday. No one epitomised revival more than Chris Gayle, the captain reluctantly appointed by the WICB after its executive had initially refused the recommendation of the selectors. No doubt his contrasting laidback attitude when he is simply a player in the ranks would be questioned by those who would not have him as captain. But he was energised in the field, yesterday sprinting, yes sprinting, 50 yards or so after snaring a sharp, left-handed catch at slip. His players rushed to embrace him, confirming their enthusiastic support. It was almost certainly a response to his snubbing by the board.
His new mood was best illustrated by his calculated, if uncharacteristic 82 off 126 balls that set the platform from which Runako Morton and Dwayne Bravo could launch their pyrotechnics that brought 116 off the last ten overs.
His counselling of Morton when he threatened to lose patience against England's defensive bowling and field setting in the early part of his innings was the intervention of a seasoned cricketer. Its value was seen later as Morton and Bravo threw England into panic by belting the ball to the boundary and scampering between the wickets like hares.
The selectors correctly identified Gayle's leadership potential in naming him as Daren Ganga's replacement after the Tests. The board underestimated it. Gayle and his team provided the answer.
Almost every one could claim a part in the revival. Daren Powell and Fidel Edwards bowled with pace and aggression - and without the proliferation of no-balls that featured in the Tests. Ravi Rampaul fit easily back into international cricket after a break of three years through one injury or another. His career, so promising when he made his debut at the age of 19, is clearly back on track.
Marlon Samuels advertised his abundant talent with his exquisite strokeplay and was a revelation in the field. His swooping catch running in from square leg was further proof of the team's combined effort.
Morton rounded off an otherwise unrewarding tour with his matchwinning innings yesterday. Bravo and Dwayne Smith maintained standards of fielding that others now aimed to match. Denesh Ramdin established his credentials as wicketkeeper after a shaky start in the Tests.
Not everything has fallen into place and there is plenty of work to be done back home before the West Indies can begin their long climb back - on respect between administrators and players, on infrastructure and on the creation of a professional league.
An agreement needs to be finalised with Sir Allen Stanford so that his offered millions can be best utilised.
It is worth remembering what followed the triumph in the ICC Champions Trophy. Within a few weeks, another row broke out between the WICB and the WIPA, a tour of Australia was undertaken by the players under duress and, less than a year on, a second team had to be cadged together for a tour of Sri Lanka boycotted by the main players.
It cannot be allowed to happen again. These few matches have shown what the West Indies team, focused and driven, is capable of. It has to be built on.
In the meantime, as Gayle cheekily said at the presentation ceremony last night, the curfew is off. We can all drink to a rare, but richly deserved, West Indies success.
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