England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord's, 2nd day May 18, 2012

Where are West Indies' heroes?

The side taking part at Lord's has men to admire but not players to revere

There was something quite sad about the second day at Lord's, a sense of resignation to the facts. England's runs came at a decent rate and without alarm. In part this was due to organised batting but mainly it was because West Indies were not much good with the ball. If that appears unkind, it is not to question the players' commitment. Rather it is to say that the flair which once made West Indies both such an attraction and a threat was nowhere in sight.

The selection of a fourth seamer in place of the in-form offspinner Shane Shillingford was crass. Even in the glory days of four fast bowlers, Roger Harper might have got a game on a surface like this. The mitigation is that this Lord's pitch is drier and slower than predicted but five days is a long time without the variety of a competent slow bowler. Shillingford's ten-wicket bag against Australia in Dominica counted for nothing it seems. Generally, it is wiser to pick teams on the quality of the players not a suspicion of the pitches.

During the lunch break, the shrill of a mobile phone startled the occupants of the media centre lift. IPL music rang out and immediately those of us squeezed into the tiny space began to reflect on the West Indians who are absent at Lord's. Chris Gayle is the obvious one. Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine are the others at the IPL. Ramnaresh Sarwan is playing for Leicestershire, for heaven's sake. Jerome Taylor is injured. Seven good cricketers there. Three are shoo-ins, the rest are thereabouts. The verdict in the lift was that West Indies are better off with them than without them.

Clearly this is not the view of the WICB and selectors. The ongoing battle with Gayle does neither party any service, despite the recent agreement for him to play in the one-day series against England. Gayle should treat the game that has made his name with more respect and the board should find a way to harness his talent. Briefly when he was captain, the Jamaican seemed settled, batting with due care and attention, sparkling in the field and bowling useful offbreaks: a wonderful cricketer doing justice to himself and his people. Then the board offered him a contract that he refused and, reasonably, they said he could hardly be captain if he wasn't prepared to commit. In stepped T20 and the age of the mercenary and so began the uneasy and ultimately irreconcilable relationship between the Caribbean's best cricketer and those who employ him.

Well it's time to sort it out. And not just Gayle either, all the others and particularly Sarwan. Cricket needs West Indies for these wonderful islands hold the game in their soul. No other cricketers in the world put the IPL before Test matches for their country. Both the Board and the players are selling the game short. They simply have to find a way through the mess. The ICC could begin the process by scheduling a window for the IPL each year and continue it by investing in the Caribbean. It's all very well taking the game to China but let's get it fixed where the culture already exists.

In the meantime, Darren Sammy has done darn good job with limited resources. He doubtless knows that he wouldn't get in the best available team but he battles on, making something of not much and willing the young talent around him to get the best from themselves. Friday was hard because the pitch was slow and easy and the ball refused to swing. Fidel Edwards has lost the fierce pace of his youth and Kemar Roach, though honest enough, was subdued by the surface. After these two it is humdrum stuff. Sammy hustles in but needs something in the pitch and the new man, Shannon Gabriel, looks exactly that. In desperation, Marlon Samuels bowled some offbreaks that were barely half as good as Gayle's and, guess what, the variety he offered claimed the prize wicket of Kevin Pietersen.

What we don't want is to start patronising West Indies cricket. Yes, there is some spirit there and, of late, a decent Australia side were given a good run. But the raw truth is that West Indies are way below an acceptable standard and the fault lies with a few cricketers and a stubborn board. If the situation is allowed to drift, it will continue to infect the game at all levels back at home. Young cricketers need inspiration from heroes. They need to rejoice in stirring deeds that draw them to watch and play the game of their own volition. The side on the field at Lord's has men to admire but not players to revere. It is time to bring them in from the cold.

Former Hampshire batsman Mark Nicholas is the host of Channel 9's cricket coverage

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Clester on May 21, 2012, 17:18 GMT

    I do agree with Mark Nicholas though. I think you should put country above self. I however would spare a thought for Mr Sunil Narine. This is a young man with an abundance of talent. But he has the unfortunate circumstance of being in the west indies where, unlike the other large territories, the opportunities to make a decent living from his craft locally is limited. So i could understand him grabbing the opportunity now to make some money before he is established on the international scene. When he does get the opportunity though I expect a different attitude. (COUNTRY ABOVE SELF)

  • Clester on May 21, 2012, 17:09 GMT

    I agree with Honey-Lotion, except to say that the team could use the service of an experience player at the top along with Chanderpaul in the middle. That is why i am in full support of Gayle's return. Just hoping he falls in line with the new culture as Sammy indicated. I think he should be picked considered for the second test.

  • Anupam on May 21, 2012, 11:54 GMT

    yes bro my comments are harsh but not premature. i also feel bad but the truth is WI does not suit to the test cricket means not eligible for test cricket. if eng loss to WI it means WI doesn't beat eng, it means eng played very poor cricket. just imagine what will happen if shivy retires after 2-3 yrs.

  • Shahid on May 21, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    Great Article Nicolas. Having said that, i'm a business leader. I know for fact that a talented boy with less heart is no good than an average talent with a heart and perspiration. I think, Sammy has done a wonderful job. The boys took the opportunity to show character. The board should stick to this team and nurture them and not repeat the mistake they did with Gayle. It may sound unfair to Gayle and company as they 'might be' fighting for a good cause (I don't know). But you can see the winner. This half chicken team of WI is doing better than the All star team because of the HEART they have collectively which they nurtured instinctively as an underdog to make a point.

  • Mark on May 20, 2012, 21:08 GMT

    Admirable performance from West Indies YES! The ball is England's court. I mean who wants to be beaten by an underdog. The pressure is on them now. I heard Mike Holding say that the West Indies will not be more competitive with Gayle, Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo as he said it was the same guys who played in the past and got shutdown by England. However, the last paragraph of this article actually draws on England being shut out for 51 back in 2009 and having 5 of the current top 7 playing in that match back then. They need to include these guys because it is their experience that matters and can help the young players coming in to have some yardstick to measure up to and learn.

  • John on May 20, 2012, 19:44 GMT

    @Edgar 'Rodio' Stone on (May 20 2012, 00:15 AM GMT) You're right , I don't follow WI 1st class cricket. I did put "I'm not sure how much longer fmt cricket they have played in that time" since their last tests. 2 other things you'd have to bear in mind is weather conditions and the guy's mindset. Last series he played in Eng he scored 28/0/19/54 - I make that an average of just over 25. Now it could be that Gayle could carry his IPL form into the test arena but I have my doubts. It's certainly not nailed on he's score big in tests in Eng.

  • John on May 20, 2012, 19:44 GMT

    @Giridharan Jagannathan on (May 20 2012, 04:41 AM GMT) the other solution is that the players could do a bit of both as the Aus players and KP did?

  • John on May 20, 2012, 19:43 GMT

    @Giridharan Jagannathan on (May 20 2012, 04:41 AM GMT) the other solution is that the players could do a bit of both as the Aus players and KP did?

  • John on May 20, 2012, 19:43 GMT

    @AKS286 on (May 20 2012, 08:37 AM GMT) WI have played/fought really well today and still have a realistic chance of winning tomorrow. Your comms are harsh and very premature.

  • John on May 20, 2012, 19:12 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster on (May 20 2012, 03:45 AM GMT) Not a shallow cricket fan at all then. So basically you are saying that you only like IPL ? And then you expect others to take your posts on threads relating to tests seriously?

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