In the humdrum of a packed international cricket calendar, it’s unlikely that any cricketer would remember what his or her day was like nearly 10 years ago.
However, ask West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels a question on what his day was like on December 29, 2007, chances are that you will get a detailed account about the activities of that evening at Port Elizabeth. Why so? As he was the only member from the current Windies squad to have tasted the sweet scent of a test match victory over a higher ranked nation (South Africa), abroad before November 3, 2016.
Exactly 3231 days later, after that heady Port Elizabeth evening, Samuels along with 10 (not so famous) men from the Caribbean, ranked 8th in the ICC Test rankings, completed a five-wicket win over Pakistan (ranked number two) at Sharjah.
And, it was a victory to savour for sure! For a team that has been on perpetual decline after their domineering ways in the 1970s and 1980s, this victory can just be the right tonic as they aim to become a more competitive test team again.
Yes, only competitive! Ever since losing the test series to Australia 1-2 at home in 1995, the once mighty West Indies team has only been a pale shadow of their domineering past era. Since 2000, the Windies have lost 56 out of 76 away tests against the top eight ranked teams. During this time, they have just managed three victories in these 76 games (including this Sharjah game). That’s a meagre 3.94 win percentage. For Jason Holder’s men to be considered competitive again, victories against top teams like India, Pakistan, Australia and South Africa need to come on a more regular basis at least at home, if not on foreign soil.
In Jason Holder, the team has perhaps found an able leader, someone who is determined to take West Indies cricket forward. It is not easy to lead a side that is always involved in some kind of tussle with the home cricket board. But Holder is carrying on undeterred by the challenges. And that’s where there is hope.
Remember, the West Indies were only 83 runs away from registering a victory with four wickets in hand, over the Pakistani side in the first test under lights at Dubai. Unfortunately, they could not finish off the job on that occasion. The lessons were learnt and at Sharjah, a place known for cricketing miracles (Remember Javed Miandad and the famous last ball six against Chetan Sharma in 1986), the Windies produced a minor miracle of their own. Can they sustain it now? Watch this space for more.