The ICC Champions Trophy defending champions had to qualify for this 2005 version but are just one game away from the finals at the moment. They beat the current World Cup champions, Australia, along the way but also lost to one of the worst performing ODI teams, England, as well. That's been the modus operandi of the West Indies cricket team in recent years and their fans are desperate to see some consistency. The competition is now at the stage where one loss and you go home so another couple of wins is what is required to bring tons of joy to the Caribbean people.
During this seemingly long transitional period that the Windies have been going thru, it's been the bowling department that has lacked the 'stars' teams yearn for. The batting cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to be consistent but in Lara, Gayle, Chanderpaul and Sarwan, there is undeniable talent. This current squad in India though can feel proud of the way their bowling department has stood up to the challenge. Before we get carried away, we have to admit that the playing conditions have certainly helped as we haven't seen too many pitches so far that would encourage the batsmen to think about wanting to carry them around with them but Bradshaw and Taylor have done good jobs.
In limited overs cricket, bowlers are usually asked to do specific jobs. You will always find a few that captains feel happy with throwing them the ball at any stage of the game but in this Windies team, Bradshaw has done a very good job at the top of the innings. He hasn't got a lot of pace and has never had but what he lacks in pace, he makes up for in variety and brainpower. He thinks a lot about what he does and has enough common sense to know what his strengths and weaknesses are and enough humility to operate within those boundaries. It may not seem like a lot but it's a very important facet for success as a medium pacer, too many of that variety have inflated opinions of their 'pace' and end up being carted around the ground bowling the wrong length.
Bradshaw also has good control. He tends to bowl over the wicket most of the times where his left armed deliveries create a natural angle to right handers that create problems especially if there is a bit of swing around but without the necessary control, it can be disastrous. Usually heading towards the end of the innings, Bradshaw has completed his allocation of overs and that's the best way to use his assets. By then, the other gentleman that has been doing well in this tournament with the ball is ready to do his thing.
Jerome Taylor has been the 'finisher' for the Windies. It is not an easy job bowling the last few overs of an innings. That's when the batsmen have almost nothing to lose and come out with all guns blazing. The more wickets in hand, the bigger the guns and the more bullets fired. Bowlers need to keep their nerve and remember the plan but also be flexible enough to adjust to last minute innovative moves of batsmen at the crease.
Taylor has come a long way in a comparatively short period of time. He was selected at an early age to the Windies team because of his natural ability and easy bowling action. Some say too early. I say, not too early to be selected but too early to be asked to carry the workload thrust upon him and so the injuries. He has come back now a stronger person and has obviously been working not just on his physical capabilities but also on the mental side of his game. He is stronger and so naturally faster and able to maintain that pace over a longer period. He has the control necessary as evidenced by the hat trick against Australia. The dismissal of Brad Hogg was the perfect illustration of what is required to bowl at the 'death'. The delivery had pace and direction and to top it all off, he wasn't affected by the late movement of the batsman at the crease designed to try and put him off his game. While that was impressive, what also impressed a lot of people is that although he was on a hat trick, he wasn't even aware of it; his thoughts were directed at one thing, helping his team to win a game. He is not yet the finished article and will continue to have his good and bad days but that's the nature of the job. Bowling at that stage of the game will have it ups and downs but as he matures and gains experience, the good days should far outweigh the bad.