Walsh banks on Windies to spring a surprise
Courtney Walsh and Michael Holding, bowling greats, differ on the chances of the West Indies making a fist of their three-Test cricket series against Australia, set to begin at Brisbane on Thursday.
Walsh, till recently a wicket-taking world record-holder in Tests, believes the West Indies can spring a surprise by winning a Test in Australia, something they haven't done since February 1997. "Definitely, I think the way they've started (the tour) would have given them a lot of confidence," he said on Tuesday. "It's the first time this team has played together in about two or three tours because of politics (over sponsorship).
"These guys have a chance to gel here, and I'm sure that they're going to play some good consistent cricket. They're up against the best team. It's going to be hard but if you want to make a mark you've got to play against the best."
Holding, another former West Indies great, disagrees and forecasts that the Caribbean tourists will be drubbed 3-0 by Ricky Ponting's side, determined to prove they are still world cricket's top team after losing the Ashes to England last September. "People don't like to hear the truth, but this group does not possess the right attitude to win Test matches," Holding said.
"I'm concerned about their general focus. They aren't focused on their game enough. They aren't focused on representing the Windies enough."
The West Windies are the last touring team to win a series in Australia, winning 2-1 in 1992-93, but they were spanked 5-0 by the Australians on their last visit down under in 2000-01. The one-time powerhouse of world cricket have fallen on hard times and are looking to recapture lost glory under the coaching of Australian Bennett King, who went to the Caribbean last year with the pedigree of having coached Queensland and the Australian Cricket Academy. "I think you'll see a change in their fortunes sometime, but certainly it's quite young in their development," King said.
The Windies had the better of Queensland in the warm-up four-day tour match at Brisbane last weekend. Marlon Samuels was the stand-out with his highest first-class score of 257 and a best return of five wickets.
The Caribbean tourists have a formidable battery of quicks in Jermaine Lawson (50 wickets in 12 Tests), Fidel Edwards (45 wickets in 17 Tests) and Tino Best (26 wickets in 12 Tests). Walsh likes what he sees in Edwards, a 23-year-old from Barbados. "He could be a handful if he can get things right," Walsh said. "He swings the ball away and he's got some good pace."
Australia will have a Test debutant this week when Mike Hussey opens the innings with Matthew Hayden, after Justin Langer pulled out with a broken rib. No Australian ever has made more first-class runs (15,313 runs at 52.8) before making his Test debut.