Dimanche Gras! Not deflated, not defeated, will Brathwaite’s WI double up in Dhaka?

A double-century on debut! And in Asia to boot! That’s the stuff of which West Indian boyhood dreams are made. As well as come-from-behind West Indian victories. 

Guardian cricket reporter Vinode Mamchan did not seem to know about these dreams. Or to care about them.

Photo: West Indies batsman Kyle Mayers on the attack against Bangladesh in his Test debut.

On television on Friday evening, he was asked by programme host Barry Wilkinson what he thought was the minimum score the hosts needed for a safe declaration.

At that time, six sessions were left in the match and the Bangladesh lead stood at a mere 218. But with a straight face, Mamchan responded that even if Bangladesh were to fail to add another run to their overnight score, they would still have enough to win. 

Wilkinson rebuked him for his ‘cynicism’; I was unsympathetic. Truth be told, whenever I find myself on the same page as Mamchan on cricket matters, I stop and start again. 

KFC Munch Pack

No need to do that here. I was in Narwan and he was in Starwan. And the smart money would have been on Brathwaite’s men to get 218 although no one could be misguided enough to think the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

Not that I thought particularly highly of Kraigg Brathwaite’s no-hopers then. The Guardian headline said they had an ‘uphill task’ while the Express’ preferred euphemism was ‘up against it’.

Photo: Bangladesh cricketers celebrate the wicket of West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood on Day 3 of the 1st Test in Bangladesh.

I was in total agreement. The selectors had erred, I thought, in opting for Shayne Moseley; I could see no evidence to support the decision to go for the unproven batsman ahead of a third pacer in Alzarri Joseph. The Antiguan has in recent times demonstrated that he’s no mug with the bat. 

But although Brathwaite’s handling of the team in the field was not perfect, he had done a decent job. Neither Jomel Warrican nor Rakheem Cornwall had set the stadium alight both could hold their heads up high, having given a decent account of themselves in conditions that favoured them.

I should have liked to see Warrican given the ball somewhat earlier in the second innings after his performance in the first. And although the requisite close catchers were frequently in place, their use seemed too often reactive rather than proactive, particularly during the crucial Mominul Haque and Liton Das second innings partnership.

Now that Brathwaite has seen what they can produce in the heat of battle, however, maybe he will be more willing to support them with attacking fields from early. 

Photo: West Indies’ Rahkeem Cornwall bowls against India during day one of the second Test at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica on 30 August 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

I certainly expected him, with 59 Tests to his name, a proud record against Bangladesh and a 76 in the first innings. to lead the way in the fourth innings. And I would take what I could get from vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood who is a kind of hit-or-miss batsman—almost literally.

His record shows 12 fifties and a solitary century in 30 Tests. And he had already hit a half-century in the first innings… 

But I had little expectation that, in spinner-friendly conditions, skipper Haque would have the luxury of a declaration.

And I certainly did not expect that he would join the list of 12 Test captains—including Garry Sobers and two other West Indians—who had declared their team’s third innings and gone on to lose the match.

In fact, on Saturday afternoon, I sent off another Kieron Pollard-for-captain-column to Wired868, that included: ‘WI still standing essentially at the foot of Everest with nary a Sherpa in sight’. Then not long afterwards, I went online to check the captions. 

Photo: Bangladesh captain and batsman Mominul Haque.

Up came Vaneisa Baksh’s splendidly evocative piece, partially headlined: ‘A praise song for Carnival’.

Reading it, I was in full Dimanche Gras mode. I felt I was lying in a bathtub, lathering myself in the medley of music and murals and moko jumbies and mas and Minshall and kings and queens and Kitch and Rainorama and Rudder and praise songs. 

And Despers’ Rebecca and All Stars’ Curry Tabanca and the Woman on Scrunter bass. 

As I lay there, listening to the lyrics from the endless kaiso library in my head and luxuriating listlessly in the lather, what leapt unbidden into my head? You guessed it. Rally round the West Indies.

Unbidden? Methinks not. Summoned, I subsequently realised, by these lines:

“…ask yourself if they don’t tell you a truth about our art of improvisation, even if they speak about pan:

“Out of yesterday’s rejection, onward to a new perfection

From a hunger came a feel

From that feel; we shaped the steel.”

Photo: Pan Elders Steel Orchestra.
(Copyright steelbandauthority.com)

How many of our societies here in this Caribbean place were not built from muddy ponds?”

See the cricket connection? Frank Worrell in the first instance, then, just short of 20 years later, Kerry Packer? 

So I added a hasty comment on Vaneisa’s story before abandoning Wired868 to dash off—this is Saturday afternoon, I remind you—a full match report complete with headline: ‘Defeated but not disgraced.’

I messaged the Editor to say that the column should be in his mailbox when he awoke the next morning. I expected to have to fill in some details but ‘I don’t expect the game to go beyond lunch’.

That was to do Kyle Mayers and Nkrumah Bonner an injustice, to reckon without the resilience and character of the two debutants. And of skipper Brathwaite and all the second stringers.

Second-stringers but not, we know now, second-raters.

Photo: West Indies batsman Kyle Mayers (left) celebrates a sensational double century in the First Test against Bangladesh.
At his side is teammate Nkrumah Bonner.

Even if they never win another game, we should be as proud of them as India were, no, are of Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant and Sundar Washington and Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thackur and all of Ajinkya Rahane’s second-stringers.

All in all, though, Brathwaite’s men will have come away from Chattogram with their self-confidence not, as expected, shaken but immensely boosted. And our self-belief.

That’s what WI get from a Dimanche Gras double-century on debut! And dotted with 20 lusty drives and cuts for four and eight meaty pulls and full-blooded clouts back overhead for six.

It is the stuff of which West Indian come-from-behind victories are made, unleashing the creativity of a morning-after-the-Panorama night before. Or the unbridled joy and abandonment of a Jouvert morning.

And whetting the appetite for more. One swallow does not a summer make.

Which matters tremendously for the 28-year-old Mayers since Sunday’s double-century spawns the possibility—no more!—of an IPL contract…

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About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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