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West Indies in 2016

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West_Indies_cricket_board_Test_ODI_T202016 is done and dusted.

The volatile West Indies team has been buoyed by some magnificent glories, in the form of 3 independent World Cup titles earned by a name often left in shambles with comparisons with its hefty past.

2016 started on a perfect note for the Windies

Their triumph at the Under-19 Men’s 50 over World Cup, under Shimron Hetmyer, wasn't the only thing compelling the international media's attention to focus on the Caribbean. Further interest was created by phenomenal victories in ICC World T20 2016 in India. The Women's side led by Stafanie Taylor won their maiden women's T20 World Cup, inspiring Darren Sammy's big-hitting army of burly men to lift the title for a record second time.

Darren Sammy, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Lendl Simmons and Carlos Brathwaite, the new star of the Windies' 2016 euphoria, were names shining under the bright lights of success, alongside those of Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin and Anisa Mohammed. It was March and world cricket had started dancing to the tune of “Champion”, Dwayne Bravo's rabble rouser meets new-age redemption song, signaling a strong Windies fightback in 2016. Or so we thought!

But soon, the inevitable trouble returned

4 back-to-back sixes by Carlos Brathwaite, brought incredible joy to all, not least to Ian Bishop in the commentary box, screaming “Remember the name!” as the Barbadian creamed English all-rounder Ben Stokes out of the Eden Gardens. The memory of these, unfortunately, was quickly edged out by an evident return of Windies politics, always looming in the past few years.

Complicated contractual rulings and the resulted in the elite squad of imperious talents – Bravo, Sammy, Gayle and Pollard – crying foul, which curtailed the euphoria and gave rise to tension, panic and heart-aches. The national side, preparing for a long season back home, would be left bereft of the powerful names. A younger, evidently inexperienced lot would be powered by the presence of only two experienced names, Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo.

The thorny reins of the Windies captaincy, laden with vexing problems and biting issues, would be transferred to Jason Holder in Tests and ODIs, following the controversial axing of Denesh Ramdin from the side.

Australia and South Africa visit the Windies

Samuels and Bravo, 35 and 27 respectively, would go on to carve glorious centuries in the tri-series against the Antipodeans, fought with gusto in the Caribbean. Samuels's fighting (and only) hundred of 2016 failed to stop Australia from defeating the Windies, but it was bettered by Bravo's 102 off 103 that trampled South Africa, a unit powered by de Kock, De Villiers, Amla, Tahir and Du Plessis. The Windies reached the final of the series before bowing down to Australia, but not without a fight.

From July, the old, rusty depleted Windies were back

March's thunderous success accumulated thanks to memorable world cup victories, a facet further encouraging the ODI flourishes in June made one feel that, all of a sudden the god's were shining on the The Windies.

But with the big names gone and an almost amateurish Test unit backing itself against hope to hold Virat Kohli's India down, Caribbean power was crushed by indestructible force of the forthcoming visitors. But even in the soul-shattering losses in the Tests at Antigua, St. Lucia and Trinidad, the West Indies enforced some will and from India's unstoppable trio of Sharma, Shami and Ashwin, some unforced errors.

Backing on rain's curtailing of a day's play at Jamaica, the West Indies, powered by newfound hero, Roston Chase and keeper-batsman Shane Dowrich, both Bajans held India at bay and drew a memorable Test. That the youngsters put a fighting 144 run stand for 6th wicket wasn't the only light. Despite Bravo's hapless run, evidenced by a golden duck in their first innings, the The Windies substantiated by no excesses save Samuel's only fifty of the series, 50, put on a stellar fight and in return, a memorable change of guard at the scorecard. Captain Jason Holder too contributed with the bat, perhaps strengthened by fellow Barbadian Jermaine Blackwood's glowing six off Shami early on, before the fluently striking right-hander fell for 63 off 54.

The Windies endured a very tough remainder of 2016 but threw up some fighting performances

For long, they have been the punching bag of critics who deride their falling fortunes and purists, many of who have made a career by bashing them. And one feels they've only themselves to blame.

But their glories in the shortest format notwithstanding, a thing can be said for certain about Jason Holder's men in the longest format. There's still a very rich talent pool available for The Windies in the grueling 5-day contest with the likes of Bajan boys, Dowrich, Chase, Blackwood, Kraigg, the other Brathwaite and captain, Holder himself being around, where recovery from ongoing crisis' and bouncing back to stability is most critical need of the hour this team.

If you stare at their 2016 numbers, you find that The Windies's Blackwood, Bishoo, Brathwaite have stood out in Tests while Bravo , given the limited form we've seen him carry this year, has impressed in both formats, albeit flying lowly in his 2016 sojourn before having his wings cut altogether, perhaps needlessly by WICB Chief Dave Cameron.

Their worst campaign against Pakistan

Their maiden Test tour to Pakistan's fortress in the UAE brought another terrible string of losses, beginnings with a 3-0 drubbing in T20s, a format where the Windies, right at the beginning of the year, had flexed their whopping muscles. Things got worse as an Azhar Ali & Babar Azam powered Pakistan, with Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim’s cunning and daring, ripped them apart in the 50 over matches with the Windies again losing 3-0.

At a stage where their fans would have cried a river, crushed by the remorseless siege of Misbah’s Pakistan, just when hope was drowning, the Windies shook Pakistan in their only Test victory of the year, a five-wicket triumph at Sharjah.

In the process of avoiding a humiliating whitewash, the Windies were daringly rescued in a glorious escapade courtesy Brathwaite and Dowrich, who carved an improbable triumph.

Kraigg Brathwaite, the hero of Sharjah, entered record books by taking the Windies home with a fluent yet meticulous 60 not out, matching Dowrich's 60 not out at the other end. This in addition to his unbeaten 142 in the first innings made him the only Test opener to have carried his bat through both innings of a Test.

Bishoo's 22 wickets in 6 Tests, including a career best 8 for 45, was strong competition for headlines to Darren Bravo, who nearly took the Windies home in their first Pink Ball Test with an imperious century in Dubai. In the series, the elegant left hander scored 273 runs. Of the 445 runs Bravo made in 2016, more half were scored against Pakistan. His glorious cousin, Brian Lara, played both his first and final international Tests against the same opposition.

One hopes that with bats like Samuels (although inconsistent and prone to strange outings with the willow) Brathwaite, Chase and Dowrich around, a similar fate won't befall Darren Bravo in 2017, a year where they would want the Trinidadian to bounce back into prominence once again.

 

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