Well I know most of you would have been engrossed in the on-going Indian Premier League (IPL) but there was a great test match that was played at Barbados between the West Indies and the Aussies. Though not a marquee contest by a great stretch of imagination the test match proved to be an engrossing battle and it ended up with Michael Clarke becoming only the second captain in the history of the game to win a test match after declaring when behind.
To be honest, as a fan who has been observing the West Indies cricket for a considerable amount of time the test match being won by the Aussies did not come as a surprise but the manner in which it was did come as a surprise. West Indies over the last year have become a more and more determined and striving team and on the other hand the Aussie team is on the rise again (though defeating the Indians outside the subcontinent is increasingly becoming a sinecure). What is the thing to be observed though is the effect of the men at the helm, the effervescent Sammy in the case of West Indies and Michael in the case of Australia.
When Sammy was appointed the Captain questions were raised (and they are still being raised) about the justification of the decision. He was not a regular member of the squad and thus many felt it was not right to make him the captain. But the problem was if not him then whom? Gayle did not have the right attitude, Chanderpaul and Sarwan had not proved to be good enough, Bravo was not interested as well. On the other hand was Sammy, a guy who had less talent but the perseverance that makes champions. He was the first cricketer from his nation to play Test Cricket for West Indies and still had the pride in his heart to play for the spirit that had become synonymous with the West Indies in the old times. A year and half later the appointment is starting to bear fruit.
The biggest thing that the West Indies Board did right was to remove Chris Gayle from the team on terms of indiscipline. Similarly, Sarwan was shown the way out when his performance went down. These two deeds were statements that the team needed not just men but team men. Gayle is touted to come back for the English tour but he should have learnt his lessons by now. Behind him the team has learnt to fight again and in the coming months it will probably learn to roar again.
Australia who was suffering from their worst slide in the recent years has found a cool head in Michael Clarke. The guy was touted as the future captain only after his second test match and is now starting to put his stamp on the team. A potent seam attack is what they would have to build on. Their real difficulty will start when the mainstays of their batting Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting (to be honest I believe Ricky is going to go after this series) retire as their resources seem slim as ever.
Michael is known for being a brave heart and the present contingent seems to be learning that as well. The next biggest challenge is how to learn to play and not crumble when the pressure builds up. They have five consecutive test wins to show for their efforts but to say they have become world beaters again would be one of the most foolish things. To win the next Ashes in 2013 would be a big achievement.