There are those who will dismiss the West Indies five-match winning streak in Test cricket, starting with New Zealand last summer, Bangladesh late last year and Zimbabwe this week, as signifying very little.
They will argue that all three are ranked below the Caribbean team. Further, that Zimbabwe were playing only their fifth Test match since mid-2011, following a six-year exile from cricket's highest and most testing format.
Yet, Mr Darren Sammy's West Indies team must be commended for getting the job done. Had they stumbled, the verbal abuse from those who now scorn their success would have been deafening.
We believe, too, that this five-match winning streak -- the best since the legendary side of the 1980s won seven straight in 1988 -- has to be seen as part of a decidedly improving trend against stronger Test teams in the recent past. Importantly, it comes against the backdrop of triumph and glory in the Twenty/20 World Cup last September/October.
We are inclined to believe that, in terms of on-field performances, the long slide of West Indies cricket has ended and the team is now on an upward curve. We say this even while recognising that there will be disappointments, such as the recent 5-0 mauling by Australia in a One-Day International Series there. Development does not take place in a straight line; there will be dips and turns.
Our optimism is reinforced by the obvious depth of genuinely talented bowlers, fast and slow, across the region. We see less reason to be upbeat about the region's batting reserves -- an aspect which we believe would be greatly assisted with better-prepared pitches at all levels. That issue of pitch preparation must be viewed by the regional cricket authorities as a matter of urgency in order to sustain the upward trend.
We have found many reasons to criticise the West Indies Cricket Board down the years. We think, though, that they should be given the thumbs up for a number of initiatives -- belated though they may be -- which have had a positive impact on team performance.
The Barbados-based Sagicor High Performance Centre -- which has played a lead role in the development of promising young players now in the senior West Indies team, such as opener Mr Kieran Powell and fast bowler Mr Shannon Gabriel -- is one such initiative.
Crucially, the West Indies must keep building and improving. Coach Mr Ottis Gibson will no doubt ensure that there is no lapse into complacency. Also, there must be improvement of concentration levels. Basic errors by batsmen on what was a bowler-friendly pitch for this week's first Test against Zimbabwe could easily have caused embarrassment for the home team. Also, there were several dropped catches which made the game harder than it needed to be -- though it ended midway the third day.
To show that desired improvement, the West Indies will be expected to complete victory with far fewer errors when they face an undeniably weak Zimbabwe in the second and final Test in Dominica, March 20-24.
Triumph over Pakistan in a two-Test Series, scheduled for July, would surely convince even the cynics that Mr Sammy and his men constitute the 'real McCoy'.