Down in the dumps one day, up in the clouds the next Ã¢?? and vice versa. That's what makes the West Indies the most unpredictable side in the game and that's what makes Test cricket so engrossing.
It was nice, if a little unusual these days, to see Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen among others donning whites instead of coloured clothing. But then of course this was not Twenty20 or Fifty50 but a Test match - and at Lord's. With all the frenetic pace of the limited overs game - particularly cricket's newest and shortest format - there is an undying charm about Test matches. It's leisurely pace, the heightened suspense spread over five days, the fluctuating fortunes and the fact that bowlers are trying to take wickets and not restrict the flow of runs are a few of the factors that make Test cricket what it is - the highest art form of this great game.
Ask any budding cricketer and with all the many attractions associated with the shorter versions of the game he will say his ultimate aim is to play Test cricket. A cricketer who shines only in ODIs will still lament the fact that he didn't play Test matches. Ultimately it is the Test record of a player that stands the test of time and is set as a yardstick not the figures in Fifty50 or Twenty20 however impressive the latter may be.
It's another thing that the Test at Lord's was over in three days with England routing the West Indies by ten wickets. It certainly wasn't the best advertisement for the game's traditional format but then of course there are innumerable matches in the shorter versions that are eminently forgettable. However it can be said that the result was along expected lines. For one thing there is hardly time for visiting teams these days to acclitimize to alien conditions what with the hectic international schedule. The West Indies had just three matches and their showing - two draws and one loss - could not have been encouraging. Also this was the earliest start for a Test during an English summer and conditions were much to the hosts' liking. The visitors were also not helped by Gayle's decision to land up at Lord's only a couple of days before the Test commenced. It is never easy to make a successful transition from Twenty20 to Tests however talented and skilful one might be and it showed in the batting of the West Indian captain. Cricket indeed is a great leveler. Only a couple of months back he was hailed as the great victor as the West Indies quite unexpectedly won a Test series against England at home.
England's players did the wise thing by ending their IPL engagements in South Africa earlier. The selectors also helped matters in removing a lot of deadwood and giving berths to deserving and in form candidates. There were two debutants in Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions while Graeme Swann a skilful off spinner got the nod ahead of the over hyped Monty Panesar. With a bag of 33 wickets in six Tests since making his debut against India at Chennai last year it can be reasonably hoped that Swann has clinched the specialist spinner's slot in the England Test squad.
Swann in fact ended up as man of the match with his match haul of six wickets and a timely unbeaten 63 thrown in but Ravi Bopara could not have been far behind in the adjuticator's mind. With a career best 143 in only his fifth Test the determined right hander gave enough evidence that he could be England's No 3 on a long term basis and Michael Vaughan may have to wait before making a comeback. There was also no place for Owais Shah, Ian Bell, Steve Harmison and Panesar while the injured Andrew Flintoff will have to wait for his turn. Also in Onions they unearthed a paceman of much promise and there is little doubt that Andy Flower has quickly put his imprint on the team as coach.
Against such a confident England squad it might look like Mission Impossible for West Indies to turn the tables especially as the second Test is just a few days away. But then cricket followers are well aware of the reputation of cricketers from the Caribbean. Down in the dumps one day, up in the clouds the next - and vice versa. That's what makes the West Indies the most unpredictable side in the game and that's what makes Test cricket so engrossing.