“The quicker bowlers are the heralded heroes of the fight in West Indies cricket but with his staunch attitude and undying spirit, Dowrich stands as a benchmark for the top order Windies batsmen to emulate”.
Ever noticed the logo of West Indies cricket? A bright sunny day, a palm tree and three stumps adorn their simple, yet noticeable logo. While most teams choose to flaunt their passion and commitment through their badges, Windies seemingly kept it simple, almost to distance themselves from the ruckus of modern day sport.
Their ideology was simple. Play cricket as you would on a sunny beach amidst the palm trees – free-spirited, dancing to the reggae tones, enjoying the calypso beat. One of the most likeable teams in International cricket, Windies’ slump from a Test powerhouse to a fully loaded Mumbai local train of T20 mercenaries came quickly but no unexpectedly. They were here to enjoy the game, embracing it for what it should be.
Yet, the memories of Viv Richards standing tall in his crease, with the maroon cap sitting tight on top of his head would forever represent West Indies cricket. As much as they embrace the shorter formats of the game, their cold war against Test cricket is evident from the bare empty stadiums.
It was unlikely that an edge would have gone unheard at Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain yesterday. Such was the emptiness surrounding the ground that without all the media attention and live coverage, one can safely assume the little-noticed events of the game would be buried unheralded.
Yet, if there are signs, the slightest of them, that West Indies could return to embrace Test cricket, it came out in the twilight hours of the very same day of the Test match. Shane Dowrich, a symbol of the undying spirit in every Caribbean, stood as the flag bearer for the hosts against the Lankans, fighting it out with a magnificent ton to take them past 400 in the first innings.
In many ways, the landmark is a remarkable one for West Indies. Since 2014, West Indies have scored 400+ in an innings only five times. Of these, two have come against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, one against New Zealand and one against England. Save the Test against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, they have won each of the four Tests (excluding the ongoing one).
Remarkable is the fact that three of them have come in the past one year. From the 448 against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo to 427 against England at Leeds to yesterday’s 414/8 declared, West Indies have managed to find runs and regularly.
The last time they declared an innings before yesterday was way back in September 2014 against Bangladesh at home, a stunning fact considering they are still among one of the top tier teams in International cricket. That they played out 154 overs is in itself a surprise.
Since 2010, there have only been 10 instances when West Indies have played more than 150 overs. In the last three years, there have been just two. The last time they played more than 150 overs against a team other than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe dates back to Dunedin 2013 against New Zealand.
If they managed to stay afloat, fight and come out on top, a large chunk of the credit goes to Shane Dowrich. Less than a year ago, Dowrich and Holder strung together a double century stand to take West Indies from 230/7 to 442/8. Both scored centuries on that occasion and Holder had hinted at how they wanted to bat time.
“We just wanted to bat some time and put a big partnership together. We got to 100, then 150 and up to 200, which is a remarkable achievement, especially on that pitch. Having said that, we were disappointed to lose our wickets at that stage. At the end of the day, I think it was a special effort given where we were,” Holder had said.
Several things stand out in Holder’s statements. The fact that West Indies were prepared to battle it out tops the list but close on its heels is the fact that despite scoring 448, they were a tad disappointed in losing wickets in clusters. Though miniscule, there are signs that West Indies cricket is slowly but steadily changing.
On Thursday, Dowrich stood for everything West Indies cricket missed in the last decade – a willingness to grit it out when the flow is against them. Lahiru Kumara, Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera were making life tough for the Windies. But at 5, 6 and 7 in the batting line-up, West Indies have fighters of the highest quality. Roston Chase is the leader of the pack but Shane Dowrich and Jason Holder aren’t far behind.
Chase and Holder got just starts but it was Dowrich’s turn to rally together the tail and get runs out of them. In the company of a solid Devendra Bishoo, who played out 160 balls for 40, Dowrich took West Indies past 400, compiling a fine hundred enroute.
As Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach and Jason Holder surrounded the Lankans like a pack of confident wolves, one could sense the renaissance is well and truly on. The quicker bowlers are the heralded heroes of the fight in West Indies cricket but with his staunch attitude and undying spirit, Dowrich stands as a benchmark for the top order Windies batsmen to emulate.