DARREN BRAVO'S NOT DONE
RUMOURS of the demise of the stylish left-hander have been greatly exaggerated – well, maybe not greatly. But since his return from a two-year exile after an ugly public spat with controversial former Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Dave Cameron, Bravo had given even his die-hard supporters little reason to say bravo.
Just over two years ago, Bravo helped West Indies beat England 2-0 in a home Test series with an obstinate, gritty half-century. Known for his elegant stroke-play, Bravo showed immense character then to absorb blow after blow in a six-hour stay at the crease for a 216-ball half-century.
Since, then, Bravo has failed to kick on and his scores have been dismal.
However, CWI selectors have kept faith, clinging to the adage that class is permanent and form temporary.
At the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Sunday, Bravo seemed set to play a Test knock in the third ODI. Coming to bat at 39 for two in the tenth over, with the hosts in pursuit of 275 for victory, Bravo struggled to score in the early part of his innings.
Dot ball after dot ball, the pressure was building and the run rate climbing. If Bravo got out, the rest of the West Indies batsmen would be left with a difficult task to take the regional side home.
Although not scoring fluently, Bravo was relatively comfortable against the Sri Lankan attack. He was playing shots, just unable to pierce the gaps. However, the longer he stayed at the crease, Bravo looked more and more at ease. His first 50 took 81 balls and his second just 49 deliveries.
With scores of 37 not out, 10 and 102 in the three-match contest, Bravo ended as the fourth highest run-scorer (149) with the second-highest average (74.50).
Not bad for a batsman some said was done at the international level.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Bajan sensation Shai Hope made history in 2017 with two magnificent Test centuries against England in a thrilling victory at Headingley Cricket Ground – the first in history to achieve that.
Four years later, Hope has the chance to make more history. A man-of-the-series-performance – one century and two 50s – against Sri Lanka took him past 3,500 ODI runs in 81 matches at an astonishing 53.74 average. If the 27-year-old retired today, his ODI batting average would be fourth highest of all time.
Against Sri Lanka on Sunday, Hope struck a crisp 64 from 72 balls to join West Indian greats Gordon Greenidge and Chris Gayle in joint second place with six consecutive half-centuries. Other players on the mark include Australian Mark Waugh, Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf, New Zealanders Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and Andrew Jones and Ireland's Paul Sterling. Pakistan's Javed Miandad holds the record – for now – with nine in a row.
With ten ODI centuries and 19 50s, Hope has already solidified himself as one of the best West Indies limited-overs batsmen of all time. His immaculate cover drive, wristy shots and happy feet to meet spinners at the pitch of the ball show a batsman in full control out in the middle.
The conundrum which leaves West Indies selectors and fans scratching their heads is Hope's dismal Test form. Since making history in 2017, Hope has been extremely poor with the bat in the longer format. But with the form he showed in the just-concluded ODIs, Hope looks like a batsman capable of scoring in any format.
POLLARD'S THE MAN
With ten ODI victories in 15 matches, since assuming the helm from Jason Holder, TT's Kieron Pollard would be pleased with his captaincy record – and West Indies fans should too. The captaincy change was one of the first decisions made by Ricky Skerritt when he won CWI presidency in 2019. The move seems to be the right one. An excellent player and arguably one of the best all-rounders in the world, Holder failed to win an ODI series in five years. Embarrassingly, West Indies needed to play a qualifying tournament to reach the last World Cup. Although Sri Lanka are bottom of the ODI standings, the clinical and calculated manner in which the regional side executed plans in the 3-0 sweep showed the team is heading in the right direction.
Pollard's aggressive captaincy and style of cricket may ruffle some feathers, but as he said after clinching the T20 series 2-1, "Winning is the only thing that matters."
Branded a T20 mercenary by some, the 33-year-old has been a breath of fresh air to the West Indies, using all his wiles from T20 cricket to cultivate a winning culture. His willingness to take the ball or promote himself up the order, depending on the needs of his team, shows he wants to lead from the front.
And while his impact can never be measured solely on runs or wickets, Pollard is capable of changing a game in one over – ask Sri Lankan spinner Akila Dananjaya.
NO COMPROMISING FITNESS
Among the heated debates at press conferences, on social media and cricket programmes throughout the T20 and ODI series versus Sri Lanka was the controversy surrounding the omissions of Guyana's Shimron Hetmyer and Bajan Roston Chase. CWI head selector Roger Harper said both failed fitness tests.
Hetmyer led Guyana to the final of the 2021 Super50 competition while Chase has been a solid batsman and off-spinning option for years. Their absence from the entire Sri Lankan tour of the Caribbean has raised eyebrows and suspicions about insularity in team selection.
However, CWI director of cricket Jimmy Adams and coach Phil Simmons have stood firm on the fitness standards being demanded from players.
Series wins in the T20 (2-1) and ODI (3-0) legs of the tour would have confirmed their resolution to give no leeway to unfit players, talented as they may be.
Opening batsman Evin Lewis, after scoring a century in the second ODI against Sri Lanka, recalled his own failed fitness test last year, which he said motivated him to work harder. His consistent form in the series – third-highest scorer (181 runs) – might be testament to his immense talent, or the improved fitness which allowed his talent to shine.