Sunday, May 17, 2009

two for the price of one: doom AND gloom

After the brief euphoria of West Indies' narrow series victory over England in the Caribbean over the winter they seem to have come back down to earth with a bang now that they're in England - to be fair this seems to have been a hastily-arranged series, played far too early in the year at grounds unsuited to Test cricket in May (including the most northerly Test venue in the world - smart thinking), and the West Indies players don't exactly seem to be brimming with enthusiasm about the whole thing.

As I speak the two senior batsmen, Ramnaresh Sarwan and the admirable Shivnarine Chanderpaul, are trying to extract the West Indies from the dicey situation they find themselves in. My suspicion is that further Arctic weather may well enable them to get away with a draw, especially as we've lost a whole day already.

Anyway, the current debacle has resulted in a whole rash of opinions on why West Indies cricket has declined. I don't have much to add to what's been written on the subject already; I'll just add another couple of personal observations.

Firstly, you can keep your Australian "Invincibles" of 1948, and your record-breaking Waugh/Ponting Aussie team of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the best Test team I've ever seen is the 1984 West Indies team that destroyed a pretty decent England side (Botham, Lamb, Gower, Willis and all) 5-0. Just look at the names: Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Joel Garner. That set the West Indies up for a period of dominance that lasted until the Australians beat them at home in 1995.

The point is that most of the current West Indies side will have grown up wanting to emulate the greats of this long period of dominance - all the players I've already mentioned plus the likes of Richardson, Lara, Walsh and Ambrose. If that's the case and they're still in the shambolic state that they are, what of the next generation, who will have grown up watching the slightly less magnificent talents of Clayton Lambert, Reon King and Tino Best getting beaten by all-comers? You can hardly blame them if the lure of basketball or football seems more tempting.

As if to confirm this gloomy thinking both Chanderpaul and Sarwan are now out and West Indies really are in the poo.

I'm leaving the Ashes previewing for another day. Watch this space.

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