Supporting the Windies over the past two decades has sometimes felt like a peculiarly unerotic form of sado-masochism. 50 Shades of Shambles, if you like.
And every time I think it can’t get any worse, that’s a sure sign it’s about to do so: player strikes; cancelled tours; crazy selectors; and above all, the knowledge that no winning position is too strong to be thrown away.
But I have watched almost every ball of every Test match over those last 20 years, always believing the next session is when it will all turn around.
Like the General Election, the Windies’ upcoming three-match Test series with England ends in the first week of May, but unlike the election, we have a very clear favourite.
Despite their managerial upheaval, Alistair Cook’s side are expected to romp to victory against a Windies side low on morale and form, with half a team off playing in the IPL.
Indeed, the most interesting market for England fans may be leading run-scorer as every out-of-form batsman looks to fill his boots in the Caribbean sun.
In recent series, the Windies bowlers have tended to strike early with the new ball but then toil badly as the innings goes on, often just drifting through 40-over spells with part-time spin until the pacemen can get another fresh cherry.
— Lancashire CCC (@LancsCCC) April 8, 2015
- Given England could conceivably win this series by three innings victories, the value bet for highest runscorer may be on someone who can bang out a couple of big centuries from the middle or lower order: Ben Stokes at 12/1; Jos Buttler at 14/1; or even Chris Jordan at an enticing 200/1. [betting on those markets here]
But that’s not where my charity bet is going. Relentlessly optimistic as always, here’s why I believe the Windies can sneak a 1-0 series victory, currently available at 16/1.
The first two Tests in Antigua and Grenada promise two things: slow, flat pitches and long periods lost to rain. If they buckle down and occupy the crease for long periods, the Windies are well capable of forcing a pair of dull draws.
In recent years, the only player truly up to that task has been my cricketing hero Shivnarine Chanderpaul, but he now has support from the brilliant young opener, Kraigg Brathwaite, and the wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin, whom captaincy of the team has imbued with some sense of responsibility.
Alongside them, Devon Smith, Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels are capable of playing big innings on their day if they get past their slow starts, and if all of the tailenders can show the maturity and discipline that Kemar Roach brings to his batting, the Windies will also bat deep.
If the Windies can escape Antigua and Grenada with draws, they will come to the final test in Barbados, on a quick, grassy pitch.
If England have been lulled into complacency by that stage, they could find a pumped-up Roach (on his home ground) ready to rattle through them, with support from Jerome Taylor, Jason Holder and the exciting young Carlos Brathwaite.
It would be a winner takes all contest, and I’d fancy the Windies to sneak it.
Sure, they haven’t won a Test series against a higher-ranked team since 2009, but that was a 1-0 home win against England too.
And under the canny management of Phil Simmons, fresh from eight years of success with Ireland, this could be a new chapter in the long-awaited Windies resurgence.
As always, I can but dream. But with £250 on the 1-0 at 16/1, it would certainly be a damn fine time to start.
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