A week after their glorious triumph in the T20 World Cup, the feeling of euphoria still exists even if the partying might have stopped. The West Indian victory has been the subject of much discussion and it all ends with this question – can they regain the lost glory of the past when they were numero uno in world cricket for an extended period or if this is impossible to repeat can they at least become No 1 in Test cricket or any of the other two formats?
As I said in my earlier column, world cricket can certainly do with a strong, attractive West Indies team for they bring so much colour and excitement into the game. They enjoy the game and convey that enjoyment to the worldwide audience. They are naturally entertaining cricketers who love to play their shots and love to bowl fast and love to come up with mystery spinners.
They have a rich tradition in all this and in Sri Lanka one could see touches of genius of old in the batting of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels and the bowling of Ravi Rampaul and Sunil Narine. But then cricket followers could well ask sneeringly "this was T20, can they repeat the trick in the longer versions of the game."
In the first place let’s give credit where it is due. The T20 World Cup was a notable triumph. After all the best teams in the game took part, the competition was predictably intense and by performing at their best when it matters most the Caribbean team showed they were steely opponents.
Also the time has come when one can’t dismiss Twenty20 lightly. Like it or not, the game’s newest and shortest format is here to stay, its popularity is growing with each tournament and it has evolved from being slam bang cricket to a sport in which tactics and strategy, planning and a certain method has crept in.
So can the West Indies also rise to the top in Tests and ODIs? The current world cricket scenario is rather fluid in that no team is ruling world cricket with the same dominance that the West Indies themselves first and then the Aussies did over roughly 30 years. We have seen how over the last three years the ICC Test cricket mace has changed hands from Australia to India to England to South Africa.
There have been frequent changes at the top in the ODI table too since the Aussies fell from the high pedestal a few years ago. The West Indies have risen to the No 2 spot in the T20 rankings following their World Cup triumph and it remains to be seen whether they can do so likewise in the two other formats where currently they are languishing at No 7.
For that to happen a team has to have the right kind of personnel. The dominant West Indies team of old and the Aussies had the right blend of youth and experience, great batsmen and bowlers who were backed in the field headed by some of the greatest wicketkeepers in the game.
Darren Sammy’s team won the T20 World Cup because they had the right players for the job – stroke playing batsmen who loved to hit the ball hard and high, a number of bits and pieces cricketers, a mystery spinner who spun webs round the best of batsmen. But is this enough for them to extend their dominance to the other formats too?
It’s tough to achieve would have to be the immediate verdict. There is very little to choose between the top teams in all formats what with no side being dominant. That can work out both ways for the West Indies.
It doesn’t look possible for any team to hold on to the top for an extended period but if the West Indies could just get to the No 1 spot in either Tests or ODIs, it would constitute a major triumph considering what the game in the Caribbean has been through since their fall from the top in 1995. They have been languishing near the bottom among the leading teams for so long now that even the most fervent admirer of West Indies cricket had given up on them.
Now in the wake of what happened in Sri Lanka, great interest is being taken in West Indian cricket and there is a lot of talk about a revival, how attractive and adventurous their game is and how they could achieve wonders in world cricket. Clive Lloyd who was the captain during their heyday is of the opinion that West Indies should next target being the top team in ODIs. That certainly should be the next logical step.
But the problem with West Indies cricket unfortunately has been their inconsistency. No team can play as gloriously as they do and no team can play as badly as they do. Even during their better days they would exasperate their fans with some atrocious cricket. That is going to be their major problem the way I see it and this could hinder their progress to the top spot.
So, while I can see them climb up the ladder of success, I find it difficult to believe that Sammy and his men could become No 1 in either ODIs or Tests. I remember how their triumph in the Champions Trophy in England in 2004 generated a lot of excitement and sparked off much talk about a West Indian revival. But this never really came about.