Hint of potential of a new breed
On Thursday the young West Indies team made it to the final of the Under 19 World Cup at Mirpur, Bangladesh, and were poised to battle it out with their counterparts India for the ultimate position in what has been a well contested tournament. In the quarter-final West Indies had to get the better of a resilient Pakistan who recovered admirably from 57 for 5 wickets after reeling under the shock pace of Hazare Joseph, Shamar Springer, Holder and Kemo Paul. But Pakistan were beneficiaries of a number of let offs, most glaring of which was a gross mis-stumping of Masood when he was 40 allowing him to reach 113 off 114 balls. However, West Indies steadied themselves to restrict Pakistan to 227 for 6 from their 50 overs. Then, the Caribbean side made amends by cruising to 229 for a 5 wicket victory with 10 overs to spare.
This is only the second time West Indies has made it to the final of the Youth World Cup, and importantly it would seem, for them a number of talented players have come to the fore. First, the pace bowling has impressed, particularly the hostility displayed by Joseph and Holder, both of whom have clocked at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour. And what also has been admirable has been a definite inclination by the batsmen to attack the Sub-Continent slow bowlers – a portent that the senior side may avail itself of recruits who should help stem a grave weakness evident in the last several years.
Making a sizable impact is the beefy opener Gidron Pope whose tendency it is to assume infallibility against the slow stuff. His method is to smite anything pitched up, lofting unto the deep, and such is his aggression, he includes the medium paced opposition in similar category to be dismissed rather cavalierly. The unbridled enthusiasm of youth, though, gets the better of him. It was a softest of soft dismissals that saw him caught for 25 when the score was 45 to give Pakistan their first wicket in the West Indies 6th over.
The evidence was that West Indies had no interest in paying much respect to the Pakistani bowling, skipping to 99 for one in 15 overs. It was such that the skipper Shimron Hetmeyer's injudiciousness was solely responsible for his departure on 52, stumped to terminate his 2nd wicket partnership with Tevin Imlach to make it 122 for two. Springer, too, threw away his wicket, caught in the deep for 37 when there was absolutely no need for risk taking. Along with all this was a disregard for basic caution in running between wickets. Both Carty and Imlach gave themselves sacrificially to suicidal singles.
All in all though, the victory against Pakistan was a creditable effort and provided a suitable dress rehearsal for a semi final meeting against Bangladesh, one of two unbeaten sides to date. But, home advantage has never been something to be dismissed lightly.
In the semis, Bangladesh won the toss and elected to bat on the Mirpur strip. Immediately Joseph, Holder, Springer and Co caused trouble, and 27 for two soon became 58 for 3, 88 for 4 and 113 for 5 by the 30 overs mark. A delay in bringing back the pacemen allowed Bangladesh to lift themselves to 226 all out, buckling under Paul and Springer's onslaught at the end. M. Hassan posted 60 to top the score for the homesteaders.
There was more than a little interest in how West Indies would address the 227-run target. Predictably, Pope came out blazing with fours and sixes and even the fact of his receiving a let off from a skied shot when he was on 23 did not deter his commitment to extremely big hitting. He saw Imlach trapped LBW for 14 at 44 for 1 and he himself went bowled for 38 courtesy of a hemongeous heave, against by M. Hassan.
Carty, too, ignored the weight of the situation. He discarded his wicket for 22 in the 20th over to make it 118 for 3 – driving with his head in the air when only a further 109 runs were required at that stage with as many as 180 balls remaining. Such overt impetuosity glaringly indicated West Indies to be making difficulties for themselves. Even the skipper Hetmeyer capitulated with his score on 60, courtesy a big wild hit marking the latest bit of generosity at 147 for 4. The rash of indiscretions was finally stemmed by Springer's undefeated 62 batting sensibly with the tail. West Indies, not without much alarms ,won by three wickets with six balls to spare. Bangladesh 226, West Indies 230 for 7.
Cavallier batting and some incisive pace by West Indies have brought an element of fresh air to the tournament. It is left to be seen how far this carries in the final against India whose approach has been far nearer the mark of professionalism. What is of specific concern to me in context of the further rehabilitation of West Indies at the full international arena is the extent to which a fully fledged and progressive effort will be made to assist in lifting our emerging youth players to the top flight senior rank – that is, Test cricket etc. Admittedly, the World U/19 Cup is played in the limited overs format, but there is much in the 50 overs game which inevitably parallels the intrinsic approaches of the traditional game. In my view, the time to harness the talents of Hazare Joseph, Springer, Holder, Pope, Hetmeyer etc into dedicated replacements for much that is deficient in the West Indies senior team is now. It will mean an expert and judicious handling of their cause within a concerted development profile. Other countries are not tardy in this regard, They know it is better to beat the iron while hot.