Tony Cozier: Ramdin's coming of age fuels Windies revival
These Tests have confirmed the West Indies are emerging from years of slackness
Tuesday 03 March 2009
It wasn't in the script for the West Indies to be ahead in the series entering the last Test. England appeared to regard this as simply an uncomplicated warm-up for the real challenge of the Ashes series against Australia in the summer.
The West Indies would surely be brushed aside without a victory to show from 15 Tests and with their proud history besmirched by a two-day defeat and all-out returns of 47, 54, 61 and 94.
It was a misjudgement that paid no attention to the improvement of their opponents in successive series over the past two years against South Africa, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps they also overestimated their own strength.
The four Tests have confirmed that the West Indies are gradually emerging from their years of slackness and submission that have left them propping up the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings.
Over the past two years, they won Tests over South Africa in South Africa and Sri Lanka at home. They went down 2-0 but pressed Australia all the way in the Caribbean and have most recently drawn a series in New Zealand.
A few vital pieces have fallen into place.
Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor have established themselves as a genuine fast-bowling combination and Taylor's hundred against New Zealand in Dunedin in December convinced him that he possesses the ability to develop into an all-rounder.
Ramnaresh Sarwan has refound his groove, and how, after his brief lapse in New Zealand when, as he acknowledged, he wasn't "mentally right". Brendan Nash has given the middle order some necessary steel.
The West Indies could tick off another in this match, as crucial as all the others.
Denesh Ramdin's first Test hundred was a long time coming. His potential has been obvious since he was in the champion West Indies team in the under-15 international Costcutter Cup in 2000. He led the West Indies under-19 to the World Cup final in Bangladesh in 2004 and marked his Test debut in Sri Lanka the following year with high-class keeping and a measured half-century against Muttiah Muralitheran and Chaminda Vaas.
His subsequent performances, with gloves and bat, were inconsistent. He has never lost his Test place but the selectors have let him know their concerns by occasionally preferring other contenders for the one-day internationals.
Until his 163 on Sunday, he was the only contemporary Test wicket-keeper without a hundred. If his keeping standards seldom dipped, his batting average was down to 20, inadequate for No 7. The cause seemed to be a lack of confidence, a feeling that he wasn't capable of doing for the West Indies what he repeatedly did for Trinidad & Tobago.
Given Kensington Oval's co-operative pitch, an experienced and in-form partner in the prolific Sarwan and a limited attack, he put all that behind him. He won't suddenly reel of hundreds every time he goes in but the West Indies can feel more at ease with their No 7 than they did before he came to the middle at 334 for 5 on Saturday afternoon.
Not everything is yet in place, to be sure. But the West Indies can no longer be regarded as Test cricket's easy-beats, not least in the decisive final Test starting at the Queen's Park Oval on Friday.
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