Zim v WI v Pak series - You cannot want more than this!

Look folks, this tri-nation West Indian series that we had in 2000 featuring Zimbabwe, Pakistan and the West Indies has been tremendous cricket and a wonderful showcase for the entire game

Colin Croft
Tremendous cricket
Look folks, this tri-nation West Indian series that we had in 2000 featuring Zimbabwe, Pakistan and the West Indies has been tremendous cricket and a wonderful showcase for the entire game.
In the first two Tests featuring Zimbabwe, the West Indies showed, albeit against a fairly weak disconcerted team, that they could fight and fight hard for pride and wins too. With Zimbabwe set 99 to win in the Trinidad Test, the West Indian fast bowlers, especially Curtly Ambrose and Franklyn Rose, decimated the Zimbabweans for 63, something not expected by many. It was a miracle come through for most.
The 2nd Test in Jamaica was more organized, from a West Indian point of view, but not before more spirited efforts by the Zimbabweans. Remember, they managed 308 in the 1st innings, then the West Indies only managed a lead of 31 by getting 339, through the excellent efforts of Sherwin Campbell, Jimmy Adams, who made a century, and Franklyn Rose again, this time as batsman. Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, they could not withstand Courtney Walsh, history, and destiny, as Walsh broke the bowling world record for wickets while decimating Zimbabwe for 102 in their 2nd innings.
Two things were very evident from these two Tests. A new attitude had come into this team which had just been destroyed in New Zealand. Under Jimmy Adams, somehow, they had managed, with only one new player from the New Zealand tour, Chris Gayle, to somehow make a tremendous difference in their attitude, approach and results while most wrote them off. The West Indies had started their resurgence.
Then came Pakistan to be involved firstly in the triangular oneday series and then three Test matches. Well, no-one can complain about entertainment. Pakistan v West Indies series have always been exhilarating and exciting. Even with the West Indies losing the one-day series to Pakistan, it was still very evident that the West Indian guys were learning as they went along, learning about themselves, learning again about being in a cohesive team and unit, and perhaps learning afresh what international cricket, really tough stuff that, is all about. So, too, were Pakistan, for that matter.
The Test series involving Pakistan and the West Indies gave us many magnificent moments.
The Test match in Guyana was spoilt by rain, but not before we were exposed to what we had already suspected, that Inzamam-ul- Haq was a tremendous batsman, and that since becoming vicecaptain of Pakistan, he had taken on a new responsibility, that of pulling his team from the mess. Not to mention leg-spinner of Mushtaq Ahmed and the all-round efforts of Abdur Razzaq.
We also found out in Guyana that while both teams had many batsmen, on paper, not too many of those batsmen did much on the field, at least not yet. At least, both teams signified the attitude of their bowlers, as Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Abdur Razzaq, both as batsman and bowler, Reon King, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, coming back after a short break, also showed signs of good life.
Test No. 2 in Barbados also provided some glimpses of things to come and we saw the emergence of Yousuf Youhana, Mohammed Wasim and Imram Nazir as batsmen and the confirmation that Saqlain Mushtaq was an off-spinner of the highest class, while Wavell Hinds showed that he had matured before our very eyes as a batsman, and that, with time, he could become a real worldbeater. His 340 runs against Pakistan, in three Tests, including that 165 in Barbados, told us that he also is not a one-game wonder.
Then Ramnaresh Sarwan displayed the class of ages, but based on youth, as he managed to mesmerize all with his wonderful technique. So too did Yousuf Youhana, Mohammed Wasim, Imran Nazir and the ubiquitous Inzamam. Notice that the regulars, Sherwin Campbell, Shiv Chanderpaul and even Jimmy Adams, except in Antigua, under pressure, had to take a back seat to the new breed. Barbados, though, because the pitch was too good, was a draw, not because of too good cricket, though it was nice to watch, but because of the pitch. At least both of the teams had much to play for in Antigua.
Test No. 3, though, was special. This last game, in Antigua, was probably the best ever for a Pakistan v West Indies encounter, heart stopping even, and neither team deserved to lose. Blame or kudos could be pointed in several directions, but overall, the game of cricket won. There is no-one anywhere in the cricket world who could suggest that these tests matches, especially the last one, were dull.
Antigua was Wasim Akram's match. Even now, nearing 34, he is the best fast bowler in the world. See how he swung the ball; indeed, see how he swung the bat; see how quickly he bowled; Wasim was a man possessed. This from a man whom, in the last year, and especially the last month, would have been under tremendous personal pressure, and from severe external stimuli, courtesy of all of the match-fixing accusations, to clear his name while upholding the true values of international sport. Yet Wasim bowled his shirt off, literally, glucose, insulin, diabetes and all. Wasim is special.
When so much should have been on his mind, Wasim showed tremendous professionalism, determination and magnificence in winning that "Man of the Match" award, justly, while Yousuf Youhana continued his evolution to the highest class. Moin Khan helped too.
Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose produced also when it mattered. It was as if the veterans wanted to be noticed too. It was, in all probability, also Courtney Walsh's and Curtly Ambrose's swansong in the Caribbean, as neither of the three, including Wasim, will probably ever play in a Test match in these parts again. If ever there was a consummate professional cricketer, then the names of Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Wasim Akram must forever be mentioned. Without these three, these cricket games would have been much the poorer. We will miss them.
Then, in the final day, Jimmy Adams, cool, calm, authoritative, just better than the ubiquitous Wasim, as the West Indies won the game and the series, with Wavell Hinds completing his initial Test series with that "Man of the Series" award.
Sometimes, it really does not matter much who wins or loses, even though, obviously, a winner in the games is always nice. The Caribbean won. Cricket has again become the binding force it should be in these parts, even with its stupid politics and politicking by some non-politicals, and despite the lack of real crowds at the games which featured two of the most exciting cricket teams in world cricket.
If you folks want more than these last few months have given up, then you are greedy. The cricket was splendiferous, truly amazing stuff, wonderfully choreographed by all of the players. Every cricket aficionado should have enjoyed. We all won.
Yes, it was unjust that one team had to win and the other lose. Unfortunately for both, especially the West Indies, they have to start immediately, from ground zero, to do the same again in the United Kingdom in a full Test series. At least, Pakistan will have a few days of one-day cricket before they play Sri Lanka, perhaps another hot boiler, in Tests.
West Indian captain Jimmy Adams should at least be confident for the English tour. He is now a 100 % winner as captain; two from two. The next three months or so will decide if those standing will change.