WI vs Eng, 3rd Test, Grenada

The best ability is availability. And while the West Indies’ average order went from 50 for 0 to 95 for 6 in the Grenada heat, another West Indian excelled in the Rajasthan heat as Shimron Hetmyer hit 70 for 39 balls in a IPL warm-up match.

The selection of the West Indian side is strewn with political pitfalls and difficulties. No first-class cricket had been played in the previous two years; pitches have been loaded in favor of the bowlers; top players are drawn to franchise money, and inter-island bias and politics are a regular topic of discussion.

The result is a team that can sometimes feel like the best players available as opposed to the best players in the region, with West Indian cricket icons often not being the ones we see in white on the pitch. On the other hand, events like this have happened to give us a Windies squad full of players with incredible stories, both personal and professional.

In 2018, Nkrumah Bonner briefly quit the sport and took a construction job in the United States. As a teenager, Shamarh Brooks was considered Bajan’s next prodigy but only scored a fifty in the first six years of his career. He was waived and didn’t play a top-class game for three years between 2012 and 2015. Joshua Da Silva, who shone on day two with a 54-for-152 unbeaten run, didn’t have a professional contract too recently than in 2018. Kyle Mayers was caught in Hurricane Maria in 2017 as it devastated the island of Dominica.

The old West Indies were everyone’s second favorite team because they won all the time. The West Indies of new are everyone’s second favorite team because they’re full of people you want to succeed.

But this mentality brings you dangerously close to the worst emotion you can have towards professional athletes: that of pity. And that’s not fair either. Because this team also contains real world-class artists: Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales, Kraigg Brathwaite.

But where Brathwaite paints masterpieces with his bat and forces everyone to watch them dry, his teammates show flashes of brilliance that lead wise heads to wisely nod that “there’s a player test in there somewhere”.

It’s a notion best summed up by Brathwaite’s opening partner John Campbell, who was frustrated again today falling for a well-compiled 35. It was his highest score in this series despite having doubled his numbers in four of his five innings. It’s a trait of Campbell that he often enters but doesn’t continue, able to do the hardest part of the sport but not the easiest. Like a pianist able to play Beethoven but not Baa Baa Black Sheep.

Originally from Jamaica, the same island as Chris Gayle, Campbell was nicknamed “Little Chris” early in his career. Along with Brooks, he’s another player who had the weight of expectations on him from an early age. But that never really happened for him, and another failure in the next innings could lead to him being pushed out of the side again.

Barring a few ridiculous hours yesterday where Saqib Mahmood and Jack Leach aired their frustrations, everywhere you look with this Windies team are people who are putting in absolute effort and taking pride in representing their region. Whether it’s Brathwaite at bat for days on end, Holder or Da Silva leading the team in mid-game, group drills on the pitch, or Seales celebrating every wicket as if it were the game winner, it’s is a team that works incredibly hard for each other.

And that is rather the point. While that side struggled against England, Hetmyer – who failed the fitness tests required to be eligible for selection – prepared for the IPL on a deal worth £1.13million. dollars. A contract that is worth two hundred and thirty-six million dollars when converted into its national currency.

Much, if not all, of this is caused by disorderly and hectic schedules that lead people like Nicholas Pooran, one of the world’s most talented hitters, to feel like he just doesn’t have time to play red ball cricket. although the five-day match is one of his goals. Some might say that prioritizing money is immoral. But watch the video of fellow West Indian Rovman Powell, who scored a century against England in the T20s in January, explaining how the only motivation for his career is that his mother never knows poverty again, and that argument goes down rather collapses.

The same goes for the idea of ​​blind patriotism that places pride in representing your country above all else. Because if this same pride exists in the West Indies as everywhere in the world, it is different here. You represent your region, not your island. Does it make this affiliation less intense? Maybe, for some. Maybe not, for others.

It’s a vast region that is home to more cultures and political landscapes than you can really imagine. Jamaica is closer to Texas than Guyana. And despite all the talk of island culture, Guyana isn’t even one of them. It is a South American landmass that borders Brazil.

It has long been said that cricket in the West Indies is a fading light. And compared to the glory days of yesteryear, there’s definitely some truth to that. But that’s not to say the talent pool isn’t deep yet, as evidenced by Da Silva’s innings today. Da Silva himself is a player who, if Pooran were available, might not play. This is not an insult to him, but rather a credit to the strength of the region.

So perhaps rather than shrinking the talent pool, there’s an argument that it’s instead been watered down when it needed focus, with talent leaking out – whether to England, in the form of Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer and now Jacob Bethell, or the white-ball leagues in Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard then, and Pooran now.

West Indies administrators know and realize this, and launched the CWI Emerging Players Academy two weeks ago. The aim is to select 30 players, male and female, between the ages of 19 and 25 to bridge the gap between U19 cricket and top-class play. Hopefully this will be the first step towards retaining talent in the game and on the pitch for the region. But closing out this contest and sealing another gutsy home series win against England will go a long way to proving these guys are Test cricketers after all.

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby

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