By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Well it’s quite incredible how the fortunes of the West Indies cricket have changed. The team that was known and feared for inflicting whitewash rather ‘blackwash’ to its opponents now finds itself at the receiving end.
In the days when Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards were at the helm of the affairs, with the battery of fast bowlers doing the demolition act, it was rare to find teams being spared of a whitewash while confronting the West Indies.
But that era has now become history and Chris Gayle leads a team that cannot be expected to escape punishment when coming across the fancied outfits like Australia and South Africa. They may get away with it against the formidable Indians but they are extremely unlikely to come good against any other strong team.
To rub salt to the injury the West Indians have now been blanked in the five-match series of the One-day Internationals (ODIs) at home. Obviously the result would have bitterly disappointed the home fans but it wasn’t entirely surprising when judging by the body language of the combatants.
The South Africans were fortunate in the sense that they had to face an opposition devoid of spirit and the will power that used to be their forte in the past. It was more a case of the West Indies committing suicide rather than the South Africans playing extraordinary cricket to generate this kind of result.
Graeme Smith’s men, wounded by yet another early exit in an ICC event, managed to complete a clean sweep against the West Indies despite not having been in total control during the series. They scampered home by just one wicket in the fifth and final game in Trinidad after having shown the same kind of nerves that didn’t allow them to proceed beyond the Super Eights at the World Twenty20.
"It's terrific to have achieved this result, and bounce back from the failure at the Twenty20 World Cup. It was an important time for us as a group of people, and it was important for us to regain the faith of a lot of the public back home. I think a lot of the fans back home in South Africa support us through thick and thin, so it is nice to give them all something about which to feel good," Smith acknowledged.
"The last few games have been too close for comfort. We have chased on some pretty flat pitches, and West Indies have controlled the games at different times, and we have lost wickets at crucial times. But we have held our nerve. Winning is a habit, and when you get into tight games, and you are used to winning, you are able to limp over the line," he added.
"We seem to be in a bad habit of losing, and when it comes down to these tight situations in matches, we do not know how to handle ourselves. It's been tough losing this much. The good thing is we have a few days off to put this behind us, and hopefully, we can get a fresh start in the Test series," Gayle remarked rather in hope rather than expectation.