London - Given West Indies' decline as a Test force has been
20 years in the making, it may be unwise to say that Saturday's 2-1 series loss
in England means they have "turned a corner".
"I've heard it so many times and it's always the same
old story," said fast bowling great Michael Holding, a key member of West
Indies' all-conquering teams of the mid 1970s and early 1980s.
"Have we turned the corner? We've turned about 40
corners since the year 2000," added Holding, now a television commentator.
The lack of first-class infrastructure once disguised by a
seemingly unending supply of world-class talent that saw the likes of Gordon
Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner - and they were
just from Barbados alone - bestride the world game, eventually hurt West Indies'
More recently, the rise of lucrative Twenty20 events
including the Caribbean Premier League - this year's edition clashed with the
Tests in England - has meant players can earn huge sums of money without having
to first play in the five-day game.
West Indies arrived in England without the likes of Chris
Gayle and Marlon Samuels who, as a result of a thaw in a bitter dispute between
Caribbean cricket chiefs and senior players, will be featuring in the upcoming
one-day leg of the tour.
They duly lost the series opener, the inaugural day/night
Test in Britain, by an innings and 209 runs inside three days at Edgbaston.
Yet within days they had bounced back to win the second Test
at Headingley by five wickets - their first Test match victory in England since
Shai Hope led the way in Leeds by scoring two hundreds - his
first Test centuries - only to suffer a nine-wicket defeat, again inside three
days, at Lord's.
Before the first Test, Hope averaged a modest 19.57 and had
scored just 372 runs in 10 previous Tests.
By the end of the series, in which he was the highest scorer
on either side with 375 runs, his average had shot up to 31.12.
It wasn't just the weight of runs represented primarily by
his 147 and 116 not out at Headingley that was impressive but the way Hope
scored them too.
The 23-year-old showed plenty of composure against the
swinging ball as well as stylish shot-making ability, qualities that were both
in evidence during a second-innings 62 at Lord's that was probably worth double
given the tough batting conditions.
Kraigg Brathwaite, only a year older at 24 than Hope, came
within five runs of twin Headingley hundreds and the pair's partnerships in
Leeds suggested they could be the cornerstones of the top order.
Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel, for all the latter's
no-ball problems, formed a solid new-ball pairing although Jason Holder, for
all his admirable qualities, may be more of a fourth seamer than a first change
Holder warned that only senior batsmen Darren Bravo and
Gayle, among those currently out in the cold, wanted to return to the Test
"But apart from Darren I don't think there's anybody
else who's interested in playing Test cricket that we can really call upon or
the so-called big names people are looking for," Holder said after
Saturday's loss at Lord's.
"Chris has probably hinted that he would like to play
if he's fit enough."
West Indies, still a lowly eighth in the world Test
rankings, travel to fellow strugglers Zimbabwe next month with all-rounder
Holder heartened by their displays in England.
"Hopefully we can learn from this, we have New Zealand
at the end of the year which could be similar conditions and similar type of
bowlers, so it should be good chance to take what we've learnt here into that
series," he said.
"But first we've got Zimbabwe, in a few weeks' time, so
hopefully we can really kick on from there," he added.
"Obviously Shai was outstanding in this entire series
and we must not forget Kraigg's contribution as well, he really did a hell of a
job, especially at Headingley.
"I think we've shown improvement. We've definitely
shown that, especially in our bowling."