Progress, Natty Progress

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image: Marlon Samuels (c) telegraph.co.uk

BLAISE MURPHET contemplates “what is” not “what if” for an improving West Indian outfit.

So, the Windies have lost another series, this time against an England side who, other than their captain, have generally been in second gear. Sure, their team is far superior and the conditions much more suited, but nonetheless England probably would have wanted a sterner test ahead of their heavyweight match-up against the South Africans.

However, sometimes looks can be deceiving, and for a team that in no way expects success, the Windies can focus on small victories within the larger context. As Vic Marks commented today, the Windies must focus on improvements rather than results, and in this context the performance of Marlon Samuels stands out. I’ve been as much of a critic as anyone when it comes to the languid Jamaican. For so long he has represented a certain apathy toward the contest that has been a thorn in the West Indian side. But now, as an elder statesman of the team, Samuels is starting to take his role seriously, and low and behold his form is on the improve.

I remember Samuels when he ‘burst’ on to the scene a decade ago, when he hit an impressive century against the all-conquering Australians. His eye seemed true, as did his passion for the game. But then, like so many of his contemporaries, he seemed to lose his way in the general malaise that is his national cricketing set-up. For so long he was shielded by having the likes of Lara, Sarwan, Gayle and Chanderpaul in the team, but now with only the latter remaining, Samuels has been required to step up, and so he did in the first two tests of this series.

I don’t think anyone doubts that the Windies could be fielding a better team in this series. In my reckoning, a much stronger team would look something like this:

  1. Chris Gayle
  2. Kirk Edwards
  3. Ramnaresh Sarwan
  4. Marlon Samuels
  5. Shiv Chanderpaul
  6. Dwayne Bravo
  7. Carlton Baugh
  8. Darren Sammy
  9. Sunil Narine/Jerome Taylor
  10. Kemar Roach
  11. Fidel Edwards

This represents a large overhaul of the current team, and I’ve also included Jerome Taylor who would come in if the conditions demanded an all-pace attack.

But this is all furphy.

You see, the Windies are showing progress. They still have their collapses, as was evidenced in the second innings of this last test when they sat at 61/6, but these days they at least dig themselves out. Sure, the top order has been disastrous of late, but the bowlers have been fine as has the lower order batting. The recent series against Australia was a loss, but they pushed the Aussies to five days regularly, and even Andrew Strauss has admitted that the Windies showed resolve.

So with this in mind, perhaps it’s time to trust in this bunch of youngsters. When England were at their last nadir, the brief captaincy of Kevin Pietersen, you didn’t see the team running for the hills and trying to call up past stars. No, they promoted Strauss, and trusted in their young crew to guide them up the rankings, and how has that gone?? Trusting in the likes of Cook, Bell, Anderson and Broad, all of whom have had their low points, has proven a masterstroke.

In that case, perhaps it’s better for the Windies to forget about what could be, and focus on what is. Even a declaration as such from the management might engender more confidence in the likes of Powell and Bravo, and start to steer them back in the right direction.

Progress is slow in the Windies, but perhaps it’s time it was recognized as progress nonetheless.

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