The meaning of the eighth-ranked Test team's win over the format's reigning world champion was spelt out by the reaction of their glory generation
Tears, targets, triumph: Inside the Windies' Gabba miracle
From the back of the press conference room on the first level of the Gabba, a pair of icy cold bottles of Moët & Chandon clinked together in the magical hands of Brian Charles Lara.
No sound could have better captured the Caribbean spirit in the moment.
Minutes earlier, Lara, recording the press conference of Kraigg Brathwaite and Shamar Joseph on his phone as if he was a young fan, had broken into spontaneous applause. It seemed an instinctive reaction to a seemingly simple statement that was in fact layered with decades of complexity.
"It's my dream to play Test cricket for the West Indies," Joseph had said. "I will say live here – and I'm not afraid to say this – there will be times that T20s might come around, and Test cricket will be there … and I will say this live, I will always be available to play for the West Indies, no matter how much money comes towards me. I will always be here to play Test cricket."
Lara has had his ups and downs with the West Indies Cricket Board across the past three decades but his passion for the cause was hard to dismiss in that moment, nor earlier as the tears filled his eyes at the fall of Australia's final wicket on Sunday afternoon in Brisbane.
"This is unbelievable," he screamed into his Fox Cricket microphone, pumping his fist. "Twenty-seven years to beat Australia in Australia. Young, inexperienced, written off. This West Indies team can stand tall today. West Indies cricket can stand tall today. Today is a big day in West Indies cricket. Congratulations. Congratulations to every single member of that cricket team. What a wonderful occasion."
In the Channel Seven broadcast box next door, Ian Bishop was equally emotional.
🗣️ "12 months ago his dream was to play first class cricket. 12 months later he’s led the West Indies to their most remarkable Test match victory.— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 28, 2024
"Test cricket is alive and well."@irbishi's immediate reaction to a famous West Indies Test match victory 🙌 #AUSvWI pic.twitter.com/nYO8fP4l5C
"The first day-night Test win for the West Indies and this is just the beginning of a storied career," he said of Joseph. "This is the most remarkable (Test win) that I've seen – hard to find any in the history of the game perhaps to top this.
"Not many people will be sleeping right now in the Caribbean, I'll tell you that."
As Jim Maxwell commentated the immediate aftermath of the final wicket on the ABC, Carl Hooper walked to the back of the room and put his hands on his heads and his face against the wall. When he turned back and walked towards the camera, there were tears in his eyes, too.
It will be 30 years next year since Australia ended the West Indies' era of dominance, wresting the Frank Worrell Trophy from their grasp with a 2-1 series win in the Caribbean. According to Bishop, their decline probably began even before then.
"Decline doesn't just happen," Bishop told cricket.com.au during an interview a couple of years ago. "People think it started in '95 and then just happened. No.
"The great players that left, there didn't seem to be enough succession planning. You had Marshall, Haynes, Greenidge, Dujon, who all left one by one between say 1991 and 1992. That left a lot of young, inexperienced players to fend for themselves.
"Yes, Courtney (Walsh) was there, yes Curtly (Ambrose) had been in the game a few years by then, but there were too many gaps still to be bridged. That's one theory.
"You can talk about the economic theory of not having the resources to put the facilities in place. You can talk about county cricket and all that. Economics is definitely a factor, administrative fumbling is definitely a factor, but I don't think there's any one theory."
Yet the talent remains. For a time, two T20 World Cup titles and an abundance of elite players in the shortest format showcased it. It was both a delight to witness and a painful reminder for the traditionalists of what might have been, as players – understandably – sought the financial freedom that comes with joining the various T20 domestic leagues.
"We haven't gotten a proper structure or a proper system in the region to nurture the young talent," Sir Curtly Ambrose told cricket.com.au in early 2022. "As we speak, the (West Indies) Cricket Board is trying to put things in place, but I think we are a few years behind. The talent is still there, but it's going to take us some time before we can get back to anywhere near the top of the tree.
"Even though we're struggling in Test cricket, everyone still believes it is the way to go. We're hoping we can get the guys together and be a force once again in Test cricket."
Perhaps in the couple of years since Ambrose spoke those words, meaningful construction on that framework has taken place. West Indies have been able to funnel exciting batters into their Test system. Kirk McKenzie (23) and Alick Athanaze (25) have played seven matches between them. Kavem Hodge was plucked as a 30-year-old to debut in Australia, and 24-year-old Kevin Sinclair debuted at the Gabba. With the ball, Shamar Joseph took 13 wickets in two Tests to emerge as a generational talent.
The 24-year-old paceman had more to say in the press conference. He laughed as he revealed he had told his skipper he would simply refuse to be taken out of the attack until the final wicket had been taken, but the anecdote also underlined his commitment to the West Indies.
It seems a common theme running through this squad. Not 24 hours earlier, Alzarri Joseph had virtually demanded more Test cricket, while in the post-match presentation, Brathwaite boldly called out former Australia player Rodney Hogg, who had accused the Windies of being "pathetic" and "hopeless" after the first Test.
He elaborated on that in his press conference, saying: "If you have guys disrespecting the West Indies, and West Indies cricket, and us as players are playing, it's hurtful."
"(The Gabba win) shows the world that we are going to be competitive and win Test matches, but we need more cricket," he added. "That's my cry. I always believe the more you play, especially when it's (matches) close together, you learn as batsmen and bowlers.
"So this is a message for whoever it may be that we need more Test cricket."
In 89 Tests across almost 12 years, Brathwaite has walked the walk. Sitting in front of the media, his sweat-stained, well-worn West Indies cap told that story more than any words possibly could.
When he was done talking, the skipper stood up and walked over to Lara. Out of the spotlight, the pair embraced warmly, then they looked across the room.
There, posing for selfies with a broad smile and the weight of the Caribbean now squarely on his young shoulders, was Shamar Joseph.
NRMA Insurance Test series v West Indies
First Test: Australia won by 10 wickets
Second Test: West Indies won by eight runs
Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc
West Indies Test squad: Kraigg Brathwaite (c), Alzarri Joseph (vc), Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Kirk McKenzie, Alick Athanaze, Kavem Hodge, Justin Greaves, Joshua Da Silva, Akeem Jordan, Gudakesh Motie, Kemar Roach, Kevin Sinclair, Tevin Imlach, Shamar Joseph, Zachary McCaskie
Men's Dettol ODI Series v West Indies
February 2: MCG, 2.30pm AEDT
February 4: SCG, 2.30pm AEDT
February 6: Manuka Oval, Canberra 2.30pm AEDT
Australia ODI squad: Steve Smith (c), Travis Head (vc), Sean Abbott, Xavier Bartlett, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Cameron Green, Aaron Hardie, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Lance Morris, Matt Short, Will Sutherland, Adam Zampa
West Indies ODI squad: Shai Hope (c), Alzarri Joseph, Alick Athanaze, Teddy Bishop, Keacy Carty, Roston Chase, Matthew Forde, Justin Greaves, Kavem Hodge, Tevin Imlach, Gudakesh Motie, Kjorn Ottley, Romario Shepherd, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr.
Men's Dettol T20I Series v West Indies
February 9: Blundstone Arena, Hobart 7.00pm AEDT
February 11: Adelaide Oval, 7pm AEDT
February 13: Perth Stadium, 7pm AEDT
Australia T20I squad: Mitchell Marsh (c), Sean Abbott, Jason Behrendorff, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Matt Short, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa
West Indies T20I squad: Rovman Powell (c), Shai Hope, Johnson Charles, Roston Chase, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Gudakesh Motie, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Sherfane Rutherford, Romario Shepherd, Oshane Thomas