Mentor Lara, Mayers, Brathwaite, Gabriel, Chase And A New Chanderpaul Make West Indies Big vs Zimbabwe!
Two editions of the Blind Cricket World Cup, a great T20 women’s World Cup in Australia during 2020, a women’s ODI World Cup in New Zealand in 2022, a men’s ODI world cup in 2019 and no fewer than two men’s T20 world cups have taken place since the West Indies and Zimbabwe last met for a bilateral Test series.
But that’s the only thing that’s happened since the last time the two not-so-mightily ranked Cricket teams met each other in cricket’s purist format.
Hardik Pandya faced a career-threatening injury and even recovered from it. Kohli lost form for three long years and then hit a definitive T20I century and even nailed Pakistan in a high-octane T20 World Cup contest Down Under. Shai Hope failed to fire even a single hundred in the last five years and eventually, lost his place in the Test side. The world saw the rise of Shaw, Gill and Kishan and the arrival of another Chanderpaul.
A coterie of incredible talents such as Dottin, du Preez and Lizelle Lee along with Sana Mir became former cricketers. Kim Garth switched sides and became part of the Australian cricketing world leaving behind her Ireland.
Not to forget the fact that the Australian women continued to daunt and hammer pretty much the rest of the women’s cricket world despite the likes of Mandhana, Matthews, Rana, Harmanpreet, Doddaballapur and Dar made giant strides forward in 2017, the year when the West Indies last played Zimbabwe in a Test.
But this time around, things have changed even on the part of the sides not just cricketing universe they inhabit.
Experience meets exuberance and power meets potential as the West Indies meet Zimbabwe for a Test series that though is brief, but promises some excitement.
Surely, there won’t be too many opportunities to see a runfest and that many tumbling wickets with the soon-to-begin series that features no more than 2 Test matches. But the fact that there is some fantastic talent available on either side makes the contests worth the wait.
While the West Indies, mentored this time around by Brian Lara have specialist Test batsman and skipper Kraigg Brathwaite, the likes of Kyle Mayers, Roston Chase, Nkrumah Bonner and newcomer Tagenarine Chanderpaul lend the visiting a side a touch of class and power.
Furthermore, the return of Shannon Gabriel, 161 Test wickets, who last played a contest back in November 2021, is bound to make the series a must watch from the perspective of the die-hard Caribbean fan. That he’ll be keen to attack the opposition along with the likes of Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph will further add bite to the Windies pace attack due to challenge the authority of the Zimbabwean batters.
And truth be told, there aren’t too many this time around for the Zimbabwean cause pretty much revolves around the capability of Gary Ballance, who gets to play for the country of his birth for the first time ever and the likes of Craig Ervine and Innocent Kaia.
With the blazing all round talents such as Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl all set to miss this series, the batting looks bleak, if not entirely hollow.
How the series is poised towards the West Indies?
The hosts are surely going to remember the 2017 series when not only Hamilton Masakadza featured but even hit an imposing 147 in the second and final game. The team even featured the classy Graeme Cremer, an accomplished spinner known for his knack of picking big and quick wickets.
But not all’s so gloomy on the part of the visiting side. With Brian Lara, the timeless legend in as the mentor, a much-needed addition for the Test unit, the West Indies batting order including Bonner, Roach, Blackwood, Bonner and Da Silva looks a side that’s capable of packing more than a punch.
But the biggest piece of news for the team led by a cool-headed Bajan leader is the arrival of a Chanderpaul that’s begun promisingly as seen in the very recent outing Down Under where Tiger Shiv’s son Tagenarine stroked 51 in his debut Test.
Batting concerns for West Indies?
The upcoming four innings should definitely provide the young Guyanese with a fine opportunity to collect some useful runs and build his Test credentials further. At the same time, Kyle Mayers, who’s such a great find for the West Indies, must not bat complacently and think about scoring runs, instead of succumbing to the usual habit of playing one riskful stroke too many.
Already impressive on both counts, whether his incredible debut Test century versus Bangladesh or the fantastic bowling spell of 5 for 18 that took England by a surprise, Mayers has to capitalise and not take his Test position for granted.
Ditto for Roston Chase, whose batting hasn’t really come any good if you think of it despite being given several chances in the past few years. You instantly think of Chase’ talent but also of his shortcomings when you realise that the man who put India on the backfoot thanks to a sensational Test century against India back in 2017 has accumulated not more than 429 runs in the past 13 Test matches.
Where’s the solidity gone off to and where are the big runs? Maybe lots will happen and at least, some useful ones will come much too soon for the visitors?
It’s all to play for!