West Indies March 6, 2010

Gimme the Windies of old

There's been enough talk of the decline of the game in the Caribbean

Hey that's not Viv! © DigicelCricket.com
Brooks LaTouche Photography


Chris Gayle walks slow but he talks fast. In fact, he gabbles like a man for whom vocalisation is a chore that gets in the way of his sitting down time. In the time it would take Ricky Ponting to drawl his opening, “Ah look,” Big Chris has already answered the question, outlined the extent of his disappointment, explained what the team are going to do to put things right, ordered his taxi back to the hotel and booked his flight to Jamaica.

So an interview with Mr Gayle is an occasion for intense concentration and possibly some lip-reading. Take this from his post match interview with Ian Bishop on Thursday.

“…intheendtherewegotofftoagoodstartahbutagainyouknowfalteredinthemiddleandyouknow crucialrunoutagainandthenyouknowsomeyouknowIdon’tknowhowtodescribethewordbutahmyou knowsometerribledisplaysofbattingdownattheendthere.”

Quite so, Chris, I agree entirely. The Bish, wearing his best studious frown pretended to understand all that and asked the West Indian captain if these last two performances had surprised him.

“…ifwe’renotgoingtolearnwe’restillgoingtogetbeatenandifwecontinuelikethisZimbabwewillbeatus fivenilaswellsoahmnoexcusetheyplayedbettercricketbutatthesametimeahmlikeIsaiditsaterrible displayandsomeimmaturecricket.”

Hmm. I think I got it, but to be on the safe side, I recorded it and played it back in super slow-mo. And I found that when I studied this verbal avalanche more closely, I could clearly identify the words “terrible” and “immature”. Now these are adjectives that do not usually feature in the post-match airtime filling chinwag. It slowly dawned on me that Captain Chris was not just flapping his gums. He was delivering a dressing-down, a tongue-lashing, what is known in Premier League circles as the hairdryer treatment. And you know what, he was absolutely right.

At 99 for 0, 125 for 1 and needing five runs with four balls to go, they really, really should have won. Instead, when this six-hour session of pass-the-initiative ended, it was the smaller contestants who were left clutching the prize. Yes, Zimbabwe were plucky, they were busy between the wickets and in Ray Price they have a bowler who is sure to have a bat brandished at him before the year is out. But West Indies really, really should have won.

Instead we have another “giant-killing” story, although, frankly it isn’t much of a fairy tale. I’m not sure the fable of David and Goliath would have caught on quite so well if the Philistine had been five-foot six with diamond-studded earrings, an iffy javelin technique and a tendency to go to pieces under pressure. I don’t want to hear about plucky little outsiders toppling West Indies, because frankly anyone can do that, indeed, anyone has.

No, the story I want to hear is of the resurgence of West Indian cricket. Now their decline has had its compensations. The Caribbean game of pinning the tail of blame on the donkey of failure has helped fill many a damp afternoon in the commentary box. There is so much mileage in it, far more than the never-fascinating Tendulkar versus Bradman squabble. We’ve heard all the reasons: baseball, football, basketball, the ill-discipline of youth, the WICB, the WIPA, Allen Stanford, aliens, global warming. There is no end to the possibilities.

And there may even be some people who are pleased that the old days are gone, the same types who spent the 1980s clutching their handbags and tut-tutting about nasty short-pitched bowling.

But so what if the occasional tourist got their nose re-shaped. Mike Gatting, for example, lost none of his boyish good looks and gained a war story to tell his grandchildren. I’m tired of watching this third-rate imitation of the West Indies. I want cricket to be like it used to be, I want to see Viv Richards lashing the ball over midwicket, not Dwayne Smith closing his eyes and missing a straight one.

So have at them, Chris and if you need any more adjectives to hurl in the dressing room, I’d be more than happy to help you out.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England