TUESDAY'S historic victory over Australia in the fourth and final Test in Antigua confirms that West Indies cricket is on the way up, the international press generally agreed yesterday.
"As far as the broader game is concerned, this inspired and unexpected triumph is wonderful news," Peter Roebuck, the former Somerset captain, now widely circulated columnist, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald after the West Indies created their record by scoring 418 for seven in the second innings.
"After years of squandering time and money upon teasers, the West Indies have been trying to rebuild around men of character," he said, identifying match-winners Omari Banks and Vasbert Drakes, wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs and youngsters like Ramnaresh Sarwan, Daren Ganga and Devon Smith in that category.
"The West Indies tried to change the way their players were thinking and were wasting their time," Roebuck noted. "Better to choose men properly raised who think along the right lines before they encounter the rewards and responsibilities that accompany international cricket."
Former England fast bowler Angus Fraser, now chief cricket writer of the Daily Telegraph, also saw the result as significant for West Indies cricket.
"It is an epic achievement, especially against the marauding Aussies, and must rank among the greatest team efforts, whatever the sport," he wrote. "For a once proud region it will be a much-needed fillip. Cricket's popularity in the Caribbean has waned, but the glamour of a world record will renew interest in the game."
Writing in the Times of London, Christopher Martin-Jenkins said the importance of the win for the West Indies "is hard to exaggerate".
"Cricket in the Caribbean has been more or less in the doldrums since Australia beat them on home soil for the first time, in 1994-95," he stated.
"The manner in which West Indies completed their three-wicket win, with cool heads and a little luck, is almost as significant as the world record itself," he added. "The main contributions to the winning total came from two experienced batsmen, Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and two young men in their early twenties, Omari Banks and Ramnaresh Sarwan."
"With three other batsmen in their twenties who have already made Test hundreds - Chris Gayle, Daren Ganga and Marlon Samuels - and the confirmation in this game that Jermaine Lawson will be the most dangerous West Indies fast bowler in a decade if he can eliminate a suspicion that he sometimes throws, it is clear that a revival is gathering pace," he observed.
Noting that the winning West Indies' total had surpassed India's 408 for four against the West Indies in 1976 as the record, the Times of India added: "The beleaguered West Indian cricket could not have hoped for a better tonic to revive its sagging fortunes."
Richard Hobson wrote in the Times of London that "optimism flows" because the West Indies achieved their goal with a relatively modest contribution of 60 from captain Brian Lara, "their talismanic batsman", and with a pair of inexperienced Test players in Omari Banks and Vasbert Drakes "making light of huge pressure to compile the winning partnership".