March 9, 2010

West Indies

Crumbly tracks, lippy trundlers

Andrew Hughes


Ray Price: the poor man's Shane Warne © Gallo Images
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It is easy to criticise the West Indies Cricket Board and it’s fun too. But say what you like about Julian Hunte and chums, you can’t fault their hospitality. For the visit of the Zimbabweans, Caribbean groundsmen have produced some of the flattest, most lifeless strips of earth seen outside of the Sahara, just to make the plucky tourists feel at home. From Kingston to Guyana, it appears that every yard of soil in the West Indies is crumblier than a Madeira cake, and as an additional bonus for touring sides, none of the local players have a clue how to bat on it.

The result is that an apparently ho-hum affair has been turned into an edge-of-the-seat thriller. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be watching this series still, but as the shadows lengthened in Guyana on Sunday, I was gripped. The batsmen crawled painfully to their target, as though spin bowling was some dastardly new invention. Kieron Pollard in particular was an accident waiting to happen. Launching a ball to long-on, the hapless Mumbai Indian had to trudge back to the pavilion under the dead-eyed glare of his captain. The laconic Jeffrey Dujon suggested that Pull Hard might consider getting changed behind the pavilion.

In between the silly shots, the crowd were amusing themselves. Given the blazing heat, some kind of award has to go to the man in the Santa suit, complete with full-length white beard, who marched up and down the stand, playing a musical instrument that looked like it had been knocked up in a shed. Horns were everywhere. At times it sounded like a troupe of performing sea lions had been let loose in a drum shop. All manner of unearthly honks, hoots and bellows were unleashed, particularly when Gayle gave the ball a few healthy taps.

The other sound most often heard was that of clattering wood. The viewer formed the distinct impression that the West Indian players had been practising, so often did they disturb the bails. Indeed, both sides were pretty hot on the ground fielding, with the result that there was more timber demolished at the Providence National Stadium than over a long weekend in the Amazon.

But the best fielder wore red. Tatenda Taibu reminds me of the days when wicketkeepers were magicians. Ball beating bat and bails being removed seems to happen instantaneously, with the little keeper shrieking his celebration from short mid-on before the spectator realises what has happened.

Then there was Ray Price, a man for whom the bowling of a cricket ball is an inconvenience that gets in the way of his sledging. After letting fly, he immediately scurries down the pitch to get up close and personal with the batsman. He then runs through a melodramatic repertoire of glares, frowns, headshakes and insults, before chatting loudly with the umpire, generally behaving like precisely the kind of person you avoid at bus stops. If you haven’t seen him, imagine Shane Warne with less talent. Really, Ray, enough already. Bullying Darren Sammy is nothing to be proud of. The ball boys probably do that during the lunch interval. You have to wonder how the lippy trundler would have fared if he’d tried it on with Viv.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Andrew on (March 11, 2010, 9:36 GMT)

If Price ever did play Viv, he probably wouldn't survive. Let's just say Viv wasn't built lightly.

Posted by LOUDER on (March 10, 2010, 9:56 GMT)

Funny article written from the shade in the burning heat. Zimbabwe seem like they came to fight unlike sheeps to the slaughter just going through the paces

Posted by jamshed on (March 10, 2010, 9:19 GMT)

Paul Hard reminds me of Ryan Sidebottom.

Posted by Ngqabutho Moyo on (March 10, 2010, 0:24 GMT)

What do u mean by "If you haven’t seen him, imagine Shane Warne with less talent"... Ray is in the top 3 ODI bowlers for a reason. He kept Gayle and Shiv tied down at their ends and rotating the strike wasn't easy against him. Just because he is from Zim it doesn't mean he is less talented. Another person u forgot to mention was Graeme Cremer,... he is going to be one of the top bowlers in international cricket!!!

Posted by sunil shenoy on (March 9, 2010, 23:09 GMT)

Hey Andrew,

thanks for doing this, I'm a keen follower of Zimbabwe cricket. Although before the start of the series like everyone even I thought this would be a dead rubber with a 5-0 drubbing to Zimbabwe, to say Zimbabwe has surprised will be an understatement, having said that the Windies are playing a perfect host to their guest. Whether its their pathetic display of batting or disastrous fielding ( few guys playing in my backyard will do better than that ).

All said and done, I guess its high time the Windies board plunges into action and takes some action on such horrible display, to make the matter worse the key players of this already ailing side are injured ( sarwan , bravo etc ).

With three matches to go.. this will still be an interesting series. I really wont be surprised will the Zim's win this series but they have to play like the way they have played till now..

Posted by nzcricketfan on (March 9, 2010, 20:07 GMT)

Ur totally right about Price, he's very funny, tho a great bowler. Not sure bout t Warne comparison, Warney never seemed so scarily angry...

Posted by Edson on (March 9, 2010, 19:59 GMT)

Well just goes to show where you are from Drew. To call Ray, Warne but without talent is a bit too much. I guess the fact that he was amoungst the top wicket tackers last year is a fact you would comviently want to forget. The fact that England, Australia and New Zealand have pursued a racist agenda against Zim which has but suffocated the game in Zim is also something you would not want to mention. We are proud of our guys and cricket is alive in Zim. Despite the numerous challenges from racist sports administrators to Dictators we will play the beautifull game. Those guys are heroes in our eyes and you ought to give them their due respect for over coming the odds.Pakistan suffers a white wash defeat in Australia we don't here calls for it to be stripped of its test playing status. Bangledesh fails to beat England a feat we managed we don't here calls for its isolation. Enoygh with the hypocrisy and let the boys play. Keep it up Ray...........

Posted by Ketan Chhatwani on (March 9, 2010, 19:20 GMT)

hahahaha....absolutely hilariously written!Well done!

Posted by tawanda mambazo on (March 9, 2010, 19:03 GMT)

why hate on ray...he is actually on of e best spinners in e game nw! it creates a competitive tension btwn e baller & batsman...if e batsman cant handle t...then he def has 2 head back 2 e pavillion! balling ray...we luv ur balling & kip up the drama...go zim

Posted by Roger on (March 9, 2010, 18:26 GMT)

Very good article. As a Guyanese who has been to the stadium I can picture in my mind some of the scenes you wrote about. This series has definitely been more competitive than most people expected, and as a West Indian, I can never understand how we always seem to prepare pitches that help the opposition more than our bowlers, the same thing happened in the Bangladesh series. As Tony Cozier rightly pointed out, spinners always do well in our domestic competition, so its no surprise to see our batsmen struggle against them. very good article tho...keep it up!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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