With legends of days gone by like Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Vivian Richards, Brian Lara, Sir Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh all to call on for inspiration, there should be no shortage of talented young West Indian cricketers stepping into the limelight over the next few years.
With young players in the Caribbean it’s usually less a question of whether they have the talent, and more a question of whether they will fulfil that talent to its maximum potential, and that’s something that the nation’s best cricketing brains are set on changing.
Certainly, over the last decade or so there have been a fair few promising types who have perhaps flattered to deceive, and the very large, loyal and passionate fan base is keen to see improvement in this department from the guys in charge. They are, understandably, as desperate as they’ve ever been to return to those past glories.
Remember when Courtney and Curtly were the most feared fast bowling partnership in the world and Brian Lara was the world’s best batsman by some distance? It wasn’t that long ago you know but, since then, whilst Chris Gayle has proved his world class ability with the bat time and time again, The Windies have too often lacked top class support for their skipper in the batting attack and have certainly been missing a consistently dangerous bowling attack.
Now don’t get us wrong, players like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo were exceptional in their own right, but the point is that, too often, the eleven West Indies players on the field have not contained a world class nucleus that helps and supports each other on the way to success. After all, if your bowling attack is not performing well on the day then you need the batting attack to make up for it by stepping up to the mark and over-exceeding normal expectations. Or perhaps an individual performance will make the difference.
Carlos Brathwaite knows a thing or two about that after his stunning performance in the final over last year’s International World T20 final against England, and Chris Gayle has been bailing his side out for years with massive scores with the bat, but clearly the chances of this sort of thing happening are far greater if you have four world class players in your team instead of just two.
In football they regularly talk about the spine of the team that’s so important. A team that has a world class goalkeeper, center back, central midfielder and goalscorer as the four best players will generally have an excellent balance and therefore an excellent chance of success. It’s the same with cricket. Look back at all the greatest teams and, more often than not, they had at least one world class batsman and one world class bowler as well as a world class all-rounder and an outstanding fielder. Oh, and at least a very good wicket-keeper. You could pretty much insert anyone in the remaining three spots and a team with that sort of make-up would still do okay.
So, languishing ninth in the ODI world rankings but with no major International tournament until the summer of 2019, can the West Indies get back to being seriously competitive in time for the World Cup? At the time of writing on 27/07/17 their odds are 12/1 with Betway Sports and to win it they’ll need at least a couple of their current younger crop to take big steps forward. The good news is that they have plenty of time on their side to ensure that happens.
So who’s most likely? A quick look at the current players in and around the squad shows that there are only six guys below the age of 26. At just 25 years old, we already know that skipper Jason Holder has a very bright future, but what about the two youngest members of the squad? Shai Hope certainly has the name for the job and at only 23 years old represents one of the big hopes. He was brought into the West Indies Test squad after hitting a double hundred at a minor event back in 2015 and the England-educated Barbadian is an exciting future number 3 – they hope!
According to ICC Rankings, 24 year old Kraigg Brathwaite is the other man to watch. An all-rounder with real potential, he is the first West Indian to hit two Test fifties before his 19th birthday. He’s no relation to 29 year old, Carlos, of the same name, but, along with Shai Hope and Jason Holder, West Indies fans will be hoping they’re all on the same team sheet for many years to come…