London: Former England skipper Alec Stewart has praised the development of the West Indies side under current skipper Darren Sammy.
Stewart, who captained his country in 15 of his career spanning 133 Tests, said despite the lowly state of West Indies cricket, the team was beginning to turn their fortunes around.
"West Indies cricket has undergone a steady decline over the last 10 years, but there are signs that the current team is capable of lifting them out of the doldrums," Stewart said in his role as a BBC cricket analyst.
"Under the guidance of captain Sammy, they have become more competitive and, although they lost 2-0 to Australia in their most recent Test series, they made Michael Clarke`s men work hard for their victories."
Sammy has come under fire as captain ever since taking over from Chris Gayle for the tour of Sri Lanka in late 2010.
Though the team`s losing slide has continued, Sammy steered them to the quarter-finals of last year`s World Cup, a drawn Test series against Pakistan in the Caribbean a few months later, and eked out a share of the honours in recent one-day and Twenty20 series against the Aussies.
"Sammy is a bread and butter cricketer but he marshals his troops very well and the players all respond to his style of captaincy," Stewart pointed out.
"West Indies can be a difficult side to captain because there is a lot of inter-island rivalry, but Sammy has taken on that responsibility and he is starting to guide West Indies cricket towards where all of the Caribbean would want them to be."
He added: "Their strongest suit is their bowling where Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and Sammy provide some strong seam options, while off-spinner Shane Shillingford impressed with a 10-wicket haul in the final Test against Australia."
West Indies arrived here on Wednesday for a three-Test tour against the World number one-ranked England.
Stewart, however, said there was a big question mark over West Indies` inexperienced batsmen in testing English conditions.
"My biggest concern is how their batsmen will cope on pitches that offer sideways movement both through the air and off the pitch," he mused.
"The likes of Kirk Edwards and Darren Bravo have good batting averages early in their Test careers, but have they got the technique and temperament to battle it out against one of the best bowling attacks in the world?”
"Will they score enough runs to allow their bowlers an opportunity to bowl England out twice?"
West Indies begin their tour with a three-day match against Sussex at Hove Saturday.
First Published: Friday, May 04, 2012, 13:05