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2019 for the West Indies


West_Indies_2019_year_review_Cricket2019 was a year where the common narrative of West Indies cricket, usually described with demoralizing and uninteresting adjectives, received promising and thrilling undertones.

It wasn’t just another year where the team was thrashed ruthlessly by other stronger teams who play cricket with far more resolve and application. In fact, this was a year where the West Indies continued to channel their talent, in both Test and limited overs cricket, to take keen strides toward that big revival that fans both in the Caribbean and elsewhere have long awaited.

It’s something that seems both long overdue and imminently possible, when one sees the current promise of a young side despite its recent failures.

To be frank, former limited overs captain Jason Holder, current skipper Kieron Pollard and a core of youngsters who demonstrated promise would look back at the year as one where they’d do well to draw a lot of positives, despite not being overwhelmingly successful throughout. For instance, even as the Windies won only 10 of their 27 ODI games this year, in eight instances they compiled 300 plus totals with great ease.

If 2017-18 pushed the West Indies to the brink, where they had to feature in face-saving efforts, going as far as having to beat the others in World Cup Qualifiers, then 2019 saw the Windies improve their form. They showed consistency through performances in the sub-continent and in tough overseas conditions, an area where they aren’t too highly rated generally.

While Gabriel and Roach seems a fine pair in the longest format of the game, finding the much needed support through the rise of wicket-taking Chase (who took an 8-60 against England earlier) and the arrival of the wicket-taking Cornwall, there’s a lot of scope to improve the bowling performance in the limited overs format of the game, where the Windies struggled to keep opposition scoring in check.

Jason Holder has experience, if not the best economy, as seen throughout the year. The Windies shouldn’t shy away from saluting Sheldon Cottrell, who bowls at a probing angle with the promise of someone who can regularly take wickets, having taken 31 ODI scalps this year with 2 four-fers.

While the Windies would still love to find a menacing fast bowler like Bumrah or Starc; someone who can both surprise batsmen with pace and leave scorecards fumbling with genuine match-winning potential; young seamers like Thomas and spinners like Khary Pierre show promise that could bloom with close mentoring.

But one area that drew Windies to the immediate attention of fans and opponents, who they left absolutely stunned on several occasions, was their batting, something that’s long been defined by their flair and habitual mode of operation in the sport.

In young guns like Pooran, Hope, Hetmyer and Lewis, there’s a very promising quartet that delivered time and again for a side that seems keener than ever in maximizing the true potential that West Indies cricket so naturally offers.

So that told, what were the big highlights for the West Indies this year?

Chris Gayle’s dashing ODI form

For someone who hasn’t played Tests since 2014, Gayle, despite being 40, continued to destroy bowlers in ODIs with mesmeric ease, batting very much like the Gayle he was in 2007 and has so often been in T20s.

In the summer, as England came knocking on the Windies doors for an all-format series, the West Indies denied England the series win, holding them for a 2-2 draw. Gayle smashed the likes of Woakes, Stokes, Wood and Rashid, accumulating a staggering collection of 424 runs from 4 innings, with one game washed out.

Not once did Gayle score an innings under 50, striking 2 big hundreds, his 162 off 97 nearly taking the Windies over the line. In all, he blasted 39 sixes, collecting 234 of his series tally through big, burly hits over the ropes.

While he continued some of that form in the World Cup as well, scoring freely against Pakistan and New Zealand, his team no doubt hope the big man can deliver in the T20 World Cup next year.

Carlos Brathwaite shines in World Cup’s most nerve-wracking contest

When Ian Bishop declared Carlos Brathwaite’s talent something special in the making, 3 years ago on the back of the Barbadian’s destruction of the English in the T20 World Cup, he didn’t fire off the mark. Bishop was bang on as Brathwaite, who hasn’t delivered consistently in the years since, played arguably the most heart-stopping innings of the 2019 World Cup, one that took Windies nearly over the line against New Zealand in an ‘so-close-yet-so-far’ contest.

When Brathwaite walked down the Manchester pitch with the Windies 4 down for 142, chasing a seemingly remote 292, neither the crowds nor New Zealand suspected what lay ahead.

22 overs later, Brathwaite – 101 off 81 – had pummeled 5 sixes, 9 fours, stopped some hearts, gave still more heartaches, and had nearly struck the sixth six of his innings, which would’ve carried the Windies over the line. Trent Boult took perhaps his most important ODI catch inches from the midwicket boundary to cut short the Windies dream, five runs from the Kiwi target. As Brathwaite went down on his knees, he was awarded a standing ovation; Williamson, Guptill and more offering massive appreciation for the big man’s efforts that made a one-sided game finish a live-wire of a contest.

Windies beat England in Test series

In January, spurred by an impressive team performance, the West Indies thrashed the English visitors, registering a 2-1 series triumph in a format where their woes have long been magnified by bouts of inconsistency.

A spectacular win at Bridgetown, Barbados, often the spiritual fortress of the Caribbean side, was achieved on the back of Roach’s first-inning fifer and captain Jason Holder’s finest Test cricket moment: an unbeaten double hundred, supported by Dowrich’s determined 116. This set the Windies up with a momentum they didn’t lose in the following days.

The Second Test win, achieved at Sir Viv Richards’ home at Antigua, saw Holder (5 wickets) and Roach (8 wickets) shine yet again, cracking the floor underneath the English batsmen. The West Indies firmly collected a cracking series victory that few initially imagined them achieving.

The find of the year - Nicholas Pooran

From finding himself on a hospital bed after a near-fatal car accident in 2015 to being arguably the most aggressive and dominant limited overs batsman in the year of his ODI debut, Nicholas Pooran is a man who nearly saw the end of his cricketing career. Now he holds high the baton of youth in a side that’s eager to return to its winning days.

If you wanted a story of transformation, then Pooran’s magical tale inspires as well as enthralls.

A batsman who can play both in the classical mold as well as the role of an aggressor, Pooran is both elegant and attacking.

He collected 728 runs from 17 innings this year, striking a maiden ODI ton in the World Cup. His 118 against Sri Lanka came, unfortunately, in a losing cause. His rampaging innings – 89 from 64 and 75 from just 47 against India in the ODIs – should relieve the Windies. They finally have a lower order batsman who can target pacers and bat mighty well against spin, something not many Windies batsmen can deliver.

Shai Hope - the real knight of the Windies

The knight of the West Indies cricket spurred his team to some memorable feats in 2019, giving new flight to his dreams in the process. So long as the Windies have a batsman of the elegance, resolve and class of the Bajan, their future seems bright.

He makes their cricket worth watching and he was in a menacing form this year. For someone who had just hit his maiden ODI ton only 3 years ago, Hope smashed 7 more hundreds in the period since, scoring 4 alone in 2019.

A batsman who’s far more organized than most dashers of the white ball around him, Hope not only anchors an inning but also plays around the strength of others. Hope can both defend Windies from failures and carry them through to triumphs, many of which found a touch of his genius in 2019. For example, his 109 against Afghanistan in the ODI series triumph for Windies and his unbeaten 102 at Chennai, starring in a winning cause.

In a year where he became the fastest West Indian batsman to reach 3,000 ODI runs–quicker than even Sir Viv, Brian Lara and Babar Azam from the modern era – Hope’s ODI consistency produced tons of runs, both in the Caribbean and in overseas assignments.

Above anything, his unbeaten 170, even though against Ireland, came in a record 365 run opening stand with John Campbell, the second highest stand ever recorded in 50-over cricket. To top it up, Hope produced 3 World Cup fifties, and rounded off the year with 1,345 ODI runs, 8 fifties and 4 tons, finishing just behind Kohli and Rohit.

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