Australia in West Indies 2012 April 4, 2012

Can you feel it? Gibson can

Australian visitors hear it at customs in Barbados airport, or in cars, bars and on the streets. Locals hear it on cricket radio shows, read it in the newspapers and discuss it themselves, with caution but growing enthusiasm. It is a belief the downtrodden West Indies may finally be building a team that inspires confidence, the likes of which their coach Ottis Gibson has not felt since his childhood.

Those heady days, when the best team in the world was drawn from the islands of the Caribbean, have receded into sepia-toned memory. But there were moments in a surprisingly tight Test series in India late last year, and over the past month in tied ODI and Twenty20 bouts against the Australians, that indicated West Indies are no longer so predisposed to the backward steps that typified most of the past decade or more.

A sound measure of the resurgence is a Test series against Michael Clarke's increasingly accomplished team. Gibson was unsure if he could label this his men's best chance to win a series against Australia since they last held the Frank Worrell Trophy after the 1992-93 tour down under, but agreed the development of the squad led by Darren Sammy had been significant.

"We've been growing as a group of players for the last 12 months," Gibson said. "We won in Bangladesh, we got beaten in India but the brand of cricket that we played, there were occasions that we dominated India in India which has not happened for a very long time. I don't believe that many teams go there and do that, even though we weren't strong enough to win that series.

"We've just had a fantastic one-day and Twenty20 series against them [Australia], one that we look back now and believe we should have won. Everybody's full of confidence. There's an air of confidence as well when you walk around the streets of the Caribbean at the moment, where two years ago or probably even 12 months ago the average man in the street was not so enthusiastic about the performances of the team.

"In the last month or so there's a lot being said and there's an energy that I can remember as a child growing up. People are starting to want to watch the team again and it's because the team is starting to be competitive. You can see a togetherness on the field and if we can maintain that sort of focus and keep that togetherness going, this would be a good series for us."

As he ran his eye across a team that remains youthful but is starting to take on a more robust shape, Gibson rolled off the names of Darren Bravo, Kirk Edwards, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ravi Rampaul, Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach, Devendra Bishoo and the captain Sammy. They are the kinds of players and characters to build a team from.

"I think Duncan Fletcher made mention of it [after the India series], the fact the team was starting to gel together," Gibson said. "I think over the last 12 months our bowling attack has been as good as most around the world. They got a lot of wickets for us in all forms of cricket to be honest, especially Test cricket, so we know what we'll get from our bowling. Hopefully our batting will continue the form that they showed in India."

Bishoo's spin will pose the right questions on dry surfaces, while in Roach the hosts have the first fast bowler in years to have unsettled Ricky Ponting - probing for weaknesses that others later followed up as the then Australian captain struggled through an extended trough of run-making.

"Everybody's looking forward to getting stuck in, you know? This is the exciting thing about it," Gibson said. "There's competition for places now and that breeds the sort of environment that we're looking to create. Kemar, if he gets the opportunity first up with the new ball in his hand, I'm sure he's looking forward to it. Likewise I'm sure Ricky will be looking to get back at Kemar.

"That's a duel that people will be looking forward to seeing. But there's others, Bishoo, the impact he'd had on international cricket since he started. He only started his international career exactly a year ago and he's had 12 months and been outstanding for us. Ravi Rampaul has been exceptional as well and we know what we'll get from Fidel every day.

"The Aussies have got a very good pace attack as well. [James] Pattinson's done well, [Peter] Siddle - he's a workhorse for the team. We know a lot about each other but it comes down to us feeling the energy of the fans and taking the momentum from the one-day series and being able to transfer that into the Test series."

It has been said that no plan survives first contact with the enemy, but the mood in the Caribbean is unmistakeable - the West Indies will compete in this series, and have the chance to do even better than that.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here