Barbados has always an integral part of West Indies cricket. Right from producing legends like “The Three Ws”- Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott to other greats of the game like Sir Garfield Sobers, Gordon Greendige, Joel Garner, Desmond Haynes and Malcolm Marshall, Barbados can boast of its rich cricket culture and its contribution to the dominance of West Indies cricket from 1970 to mid-1990s.
The Kensington Stadium in Barbados has always produced cricket of the highest calibre. The 22 yard wicket especially assisted the West Indies quicks in their era of dominance and gradually with the passage of time and decline of West Indies cricket the pitch has too changed its nature.
In the past two decades, the Kensington Oval has witnessed two Test matches in which the fast bowlers of the host nation have created havoc for the visiting team in the fourth innings.
Yet not many gave a chance for West Indies to win the Test. The trio comprising of Ambrose, Rose and Bishop created havoc and the star studded Indian batting line up comprising of VVS Laxman, Navjot Siddhu, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Mohammad Azharuddin were bundled for an embarrassing score of 81 runs which gave the hosts a victory by 38 runs.
Ian Bishop was the pick of the bowlers picking up 4 wickets with 3 wickets each for Ambrose and Rose. The cricketing world once again was of the opinion that the era of the West Indies quicks running through batting line-ups had arrived. But it was not to be.
In the next 20 years, the West Indies cricket has seen many ups and downs. A win in the Champions Trophy in 2004, victories in the World T 20 in 2012 and 2016 were glimpses of what West Indies cricket was capable of. But unfortunately West Indies have not lived up to the expectations in Tests and ODIs.
Be it the player board dispute or the issue of not having its best cricketers to play because of their participation in T20 leagues around the world, payment issues, some star players not being considered for selection, the West Indies lost out on a berth for the Champions Trophy in 2017 which was indeed a big blow to the cricket rich culture of West Indies.
And when we thought that the West Indies cricket was in its worst phase, the Caribbean nation produced one of the most astounding victories in recent times in Test cricket. After being thrashed by Pakistan in the first Test at Jamaica, the West Indies set a target of 187 for the visiting team.
Pakistan were skittled out for a score of 81 (The same as India in 1997) with Shannon Gabriel picking up 5 wickets, skipper Jason Holder scalping 3 and the young Joseph picking up 2. Once again the West Indies proved that they are no pushovers in international cricket.
In 20 years from the victory against India in 1997 to victory against Pakistan in 2017 West Indies cricket has experienced radical changes. Players have come and gone, captains have come and gone, the turmoil in West Indies cricket has been evident.
But the victory in Barbados should inspire the team as a whole and it will ensure that cricket will revive in the West Indies. The victory should also encourage youngsters to take up the game and bring more people to stadiums in the Caribbean which is a rarity these days.
It will be difficult to revive the golden days of West Indies cricket but if West Indies play competitive cricket, it will be a big boost for world cricket as a whole as the West Indies are crowd pullers and people around the globe love and admire their fearless cricket.