April 11, 2001

That was not West Indian!

You could use all of those familiar sayings to describe the events at Kensington Oval on the last day of the third Cable & Wireless Test: like cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and it's a funny old game.

But what it all comes down to is that there is evidently a great deal of volatility in the West Indies approach to the game.

It surfaced agonisingly on the last day of the second Test and continued in the Kensington Test. The vital catches dropped, shoddy fielding, some intemperate and at times indisciplined batting almost cost us another match.

Indeed, the last-minute bid to survive was shocking but instructive about some of the bad habits the current team is falling back into. I don't see it as indifference so I must say again it has to be a psychological problem. The individuals must cure it themselves.

A resident psychologist can only do his part but it's up to the players to cope with the many pressures of the game out in the middle and, perhaps, off the field as well. Of course, I have not forgotten that in this period of transition there are several young players who will take some time to adjust to the different level of play, and the only way they would get the experience is out in the middle.

In essence, Brian Lara must bat at No.3, especially when there's no Chanderpaul around and captain Carl Hooper must bat at No.5.

I believe vice-captain Ridley Jacobs has proven he is capable of guiding the lower order, Hooper's reason for opting to bat at No.6.

They have to shepherd the flock until the youngsters prove that they are capable of handling the exchanges on the frontline. Otherwise, in the cricketing context, a number of the West Indian youth will become mere sacrificial lambs to the slaughter and they don't need to suffer that fate when it can be avoided.

The question of sound cricketing ethics, as opposed to questionable tactics, must also be instilled in the young who are expected, in my opinion, to uphold all the virtues and high standards set by their predecessors.

Opponents used underhand tactics against us in the past but we still managed to triumph by using our God-given abilities to prevail. Even though we might not be as potent as before, I don't think our strength is so diminished that we can't mount a similar response and attitude, even when our backs are against the wall.

It might be an idealist view but I still believe in the good overcoming evil concept. That's why I was opposed to the strategy two of our younger players resorted to in helping to save the third Test.

I want to state upfront that the spirit of the game has been compromised so much in recent years that any other team might have done the same thing in a similar situation. But, in cricketing terms, West Indians have never been known to follow the multitude to do evil.

We were not true to ourselves or our culture. It was so un-West Indian the way the unlikely high drama climaxed. I'd rather see a Garry Sobers and a Wes Hall or a Deryck Murray and an Andy Roberts fight to earn a draw, or even a Lara and a Walsh steering the West Indies to victory as they did against Australia two years ago. Good standards must never change.