Dudes of the Caribbean - five men who can lift the gloom for West Indies

You might think West Indies are no match for India in their upcoming Test series, but that might not be the case at all

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
Kemar Roach and Jason Holder celebrate, West Indies vs Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Day 4, Antigua, April 1, 2021

Kemar Roach and Jason Holder perform very different roles with the ball for West Indies  •  Getty Images

West Indies may be back-sliding in limited-overs cricket, but their Test-match game is still on point. Especially at home. Since the last time India came for a visit in August 2019, West Indies have played five series and lost only one of them.
They have been pushed to the limit, such as in the one-wicket win over Pakistan, and have pushed others to their limit, like against Bangladesh when they made 408 in the first innings and needed just 13 more to complete victory.
India's tour is likely to be defined by how well West Indies' bowlers are able to hold India's batters in check and with that in mind, here are five of their best - bowlers, batters, allrounders - who will be keen to step up and lift the gloom that has fallen over this once-great empire.
He just turned 35. And yet, over a quarter of the wickets he has ever taken at home have come over these past four years: 47 out of 180 at an average of 21.3 and strike rate of 45.4. There's fine wine and then there's the leader of this West Indies bowling attack. Roach's ability to still find ways to be useful despite injuries taking his pace away is an inspiration to fast bowlers worldwide, and his bit - going wide of the crease to get the outside edge - never gets old.
The old-ball specialist. Everybody else gets a go when there's better chance of taking wickets. But once that's done and there's no more help on offer, it's time to bring in big Jase because he can maintain a line and length and keep the runs down. Holder has clocked 282.5 overs for West Indies in home Tests since September 2019, second only to Roach, and 252 of them have been as a change bowler. Even though he is at his most threatening when he gets movement off the pitch, and that typically happens when that red cherry is still nice and shiny. The only other people who make a living by getting put in such unpleasant situations so often are mothers, teachers and magician's assistants.
Since the world is yet to catch up with the science in Inspector Gadget and human male footwear only lifts a person some two inches off the ground, when this guy goes for the bouncer, you better be wary. Joseph is the enforcer of this bowling attack. Since September 2019, he has bowled 1500 balls in home Tests, and almost half of them (739) of them have been short of a good length or just plain short. They've secured 14 of his 28 wickets in this period, and also enable the other strength he has: when he goes fuller, he gets movement off the pitch, and once he has softened his opponent up, the chances of getting an outside edge increase.
Back in 2016, he was averaging 40-plus while striking at 60-plus. It was as if his penchant for driving on the up did not come with any consequences. And then it did. His high-risk method led to some low-value shots, and he was left out of the team. "Being dropped helped me to go back and work on my game and my mental space," he said in 2020 before adding he had found a new way forward. "To bat as long as possible." Virat Kohli helped him out there apparently. "He just said, 'What will you do when you score a century? How many deliveries did you face?' I said I faced 212 balls. He said, 'That's it, once you can bat some balls, you're going to score runs'. So I took a big thing from that." Blackwood still scores pretty quickly - a career strike rate of nearly 55 - but it's just one of his strengths now as opposed to being his only strength.
He is West Indies' batting. He is the reason they work in Test cricket. Without his runs, without the time he spends in the middle, allowing others to do their thing, without his stubbornness, there is nothing. Brathwaite is quirky. He gets squared up. A lot. He gets beaten. A lot. He would sooner bite the cricket ball than drive it on the up. His best shot is the most unobtrusive one in the entire game. The flick. And yet, this hard-nosed, old-school opener stands on the shoulders of giants. He is No. 4 on the list of West Indians to have faced the most balls in Test cricket, well above Sir Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge and Chris Gayle. That batting crease out there, that's his home.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo