Windies have been largely lightweight opposition in the last two decades, but they have always been tough nuts to crack for Englishmen. The demise of young paceman Alzarri Joseph’s mother before the start of the third day’s play also fired the Windies up even more. England have won just one series in the West Indies over the last half a century.
The Windies triumphed 1-0 when they played hosts in 2008-09, and drew 1-1 at home in 2015. They even managed to win a Test on their last tour to England. Compare it with their performances against other teams: the Windies last beat Australia, home or away, in a Test way back in 2003, losing 13 of the 17 Tests since then. India were last beaten in 2002.
But there are cricketing reasons too for the series victory achieved on Saturday. England’s batting has historically struggled to cope with express hostile bowling, and often haven’t had the firepower dish it out themselves. The fragility of their line-up was evident in the summer against India and in Sri Lanka was evident, but their lower order and the bowlers bailed them out. But on spicy Caribbean pitches, they couldn’t cope.
It also helps that in Jason Holder, the Windies have an inspirational leader to look up to. The No.1 Test all-rounder was handed the captaincy when he was not ready for it, as there were few other takers. But he has grown into the job and is having a dream series against England, with both bat and ball. But before one announces a full-blown revival of Windies cricket, one needs to remember that there have been several false dawns over the last 20 years.
The strained relationship between the players and the regional board is never too far away from the surface. Recently, there was a public row over the appointment of director of cricket Richard Pybus, signifying that all stakeholders may not be on the same page.
The Windies are a force to be reckoned with in T20 cricket, but have struggled in the two longer formats. They even had to qualify for the 2019 World Cup. As long as their marquee players shun national duty to turn out for T20 leagues around the world, one can’t be certain that Windies cricket has turned the corner.