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Diverging fortunes

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West Indies whitewashIt is alleged that West Indies and Pakistan are somewhat similar in the way they go about playing cricket. Their styles are similarly firebrand, unpredictable and, at times, hampered by incoherent displays in both departments. In 2012, the West Indies were slightly better than their alleged twins in Tests. Thanks to a 2-0 away win over Bangladesh, they were ahead of Pakistan who were being drubbed 1-0 and 3-0 by Sri Lanka and South Africa respectively.

But the notion about Windies and Pakistan being somewhat similar couldn't be further from the truth, considering where Pakistan stand today in Test cricket. Therefore they should not be compared to the West Indies. In fact, the idea of the Windies and Pakistan being even remotely similar should be discarded immediately for better sense and wisdom to prevail.

Just look at the current ICC Test Rankings- Pakistan, 2nd only to India; West Indies, languishing at the bottom, perhaps waiting for the inevitable, i.e., according Zimbabwe a place above them on 8.

 

Ever since 2012, the West Indies have receded into a hell hole created by their consistently mindless selection strategies that have churned out what seems today a B-grade team with nothing better than the experience of a somewhat indifferent Marlon Samuels and an in-and-out of form Darren Bravo, their only hope for revival.

We must remember that even Lara wasn't able to 'revive' his side’s fortunes despite putting up stellar, titanic solo battles. To top it all, their side functions like a loosely strewn coterie of pale riders; cricketers unwilling to put up any form of resistance, let alone a display of commanding heroics as required by Test Cricket.

On the other hand, playing most of their Test cricket in UAE, Pakistan have built a fortress. Over 4 years they have gone from being the laughingstock, beaten by Sri Lanka and South Africa, to becoming an attacking unit that ran over the likes of Australia, England, New Zealand and even Sri Lanka.

 

It is these completely contrasting fortunes of the two since 2012 – evidenced by West Indies winning just 1 Test at home in 2015 against England & losing all their overseas series and Pakistan not losing a single series at their 'newfound home' at UAE and winning in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – that speak volumes about how the West Indies have become the worst version of themselves and Pakistan, perhaps the best they could ever be in these tumultuous years.

Cricket doesn't need to be reminded that Windies were once great powers who have now plummeted to a sad decline. Similarly, it should now be known that Pakistan are a mighty power Test cricket who are making the sport more exciting; a side that can attack South Africa, counter Australia and defeat Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in their own gardens. The idea of defeating Pakistan in the UAE is so daunting that even winning a solitary Test against them there seems an unlikely conclusion, let alone ever accomplishing a series whitewash.

Ever since playing at the desert wilderness of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the newly reinstated Sharjah, Pakistan haven't lost a single Test match against any cricket playing nation who have toured here. In the 8 occasions where they have played at UAE (since 2010) Pakistan have drawn against South Africa in 2010, 2013, whitewashed England 3-0 in 2010, drawn against Sri Lanka 1-1 in 2013, drawn against the Kiwis 1-1 in 2014, cleaned up the Aussies 2-0 in 2014 and thumped England again 2-0 in 2015. And as they now hold the washed up West Indians by the scruff of the neck going 2-0 with one Test remaining, it seems highly unlikely if anything can come up against Pakistan's devastatingly imperious run.

Maybe a Darren Bravo special again?

Well, we've seen that how a mightily impressive 116, following up on that hard fought 87 in the first inning at Dubai couldn't deny Pakistan their victory, even if it meant a win coming up with the narrowest margin of 56 runs. Maybe Devendra Bishoo? We've seen how even an 8 wicket haul wasn't enough to curb the mesmerizing bowling triumvirate of Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah and Wahab Riaz from stealing what could have been an unlikely Windies thunder. At a time when West Indies' Jason Holder may so want to 'skip' captaining the lackluster unit let alone being hounded for being a moderately impressive skipper, nothing could be as damning as Jeff Dujon's comment that Windies pride is diminishing now.

But to say West Indies did not put up a fight would be belittling the arduous struggles of Bravo and Jermaine Blackwood's gritty 95 and Bishoo's 8-for while delaying the inevitable. While defeats by margins of 56 and 133 runs speak volumes of Windies' constant struggles, they seem to be fighting both mentally and on 22 yards with their evident shortcomings.

In both Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tests, they brought the game to the 5th day of play. This speaks of a resurgence that can be achieved if they decide to put up a fight. But for that to be a regular sighting will take a lot more from West Indies. A lot more from the lazy Marlon Samuels who's so often looked an amateur despite tremendous experience, a lot more from Roston Chase and Kraigg Brathwaite who cannot warm on their past laurels of having proved that they are cut out for the Test arena.

Unless Windies provide support to Bravo and help him get out of his self-imposed batting exile, producing knocks to marvel at and till as long as Holder continues to hide behind what he calls 'improved performances by Blackwood and Brathwaite' that could have been so bettered by obdurate focus, the world will continue to mock them. And in doing so, all of its focus will continue to deride the Windies despite there being indications that in Devendra Bishoo they have stars who can be nothing less than the envious and absolutely commendable Yasir Shah. And that will be a travesty that will hurt not just the Windies' youth but will render a devastating blow to the self confidence of the Bravo's and Blackwood's. They can surely do better than that.

 

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