West Indies in England 2009 April 29, 2009

No respect for West Indies

Fazeer Mohammed says that England are still not showing West Indies enough respect

Even after beating them, we're still not respected.

He may have very different and quite effective ways of motivating his charges, but if John Dyson is looking for something to really get the West Indies players focussed and worked up ahead of the two Tests against England next month, highlighting the comments of Hugh Morris last week in relation to Andrew Flintoff might not be such a bad idea.

When the news broke that England's premier all-round cricketer and talismanic figure was cutting short his already truncated but very well-paid commitments with the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League due to a knee injury, this is what Morris, the former Glamorgan and England opening batsman and now managing director of cricket at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), said:

"Andrew has been extremely unlucky with injuries but if there is one saving grace it is that the injury has occurred now rather than on the eve of either the ICC World Twenty20 or the Ashes. Having the surgery now means that Flintoff should be available for both those events although he is certain to miss the Test series against the West Indies."

You know, you would think that after losing the four-Test series in the Caribbean a few weeks ago 1-0-a result that confounded most very confident forecasts, both English and West Indian-anyone speaking on behalf of English cricket would have the sense to at least pretend that the regional team is worthy of some consideration as a competitive outfit and should not be simply overlooked again.

Look, even if they don't mean it and are saying it just for public relations and mamaguile sake, surely the West Indies, by virtue of their performances at home against the same opponents, are worthy of some acknowledgement in light of the fact that they will go into the opening encounter at Lord's next Wednesday as holders of the Wisden Trophy.

But for Morris to state that it is better for Flintoff to be out of commission now instead of June onwards, is to imply that the West Indies remain among the ranks of little-regarded lightweights despite the recent series result. It's as if the images of a celebrating home team with skipper Chris Gayle holding the Wisden Trophy aloft at the Queen's Park Oval were all a mirage.

And maybe the matches in London and Durham the following week will expose again the weaknesses that have existed for so long in West Indies cricket and England will romp to a resounding triumph. That still doesn't change the fact that the underdogs came out on top last time around.

Yes, there were two Tests when the hosts escaped by the skin of their teeth and another that would have still ended in a draw if another five days had been added on to it. Still, it is worth keeping in mind that, before that decisive period of play on the fourth day of the first Test at Sabina Park, most of the experts (again English AND West Indian) who have since been vigorously back-pedalling from their earlier pronouncements would have rubbished the notion that the West Indies would claim the series by the narrowest of margins and with the help of two tail-end rearguards.

Maybe it's a legacy of having to cope with the likes of Patrick Patterson, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Malcolm Marshall in two of his three Tests in 1991 that Morris, by inference, regards the West Indies so lightly despite the very recent series.

If so, he would not be the only cricketer of that era who takes genuine pleasure in seeing the Caribbean team languishing in the lower reaches of the Test rankings after all the pain and humiliation inflicted on English teams, especially in the glory days of incomparable dominance.

It's clearly not on the same scale of Tony Greig's "grovel" comment ahead of the 1976 series in England. But in a different way, Morris' remarks are even more insulting in that while the South African-born English captain was clearly seeking to get under the skin of his impending challengers and so throw them off their game, the ECB official doesn't consider the present West Indies squad to be of the calibre that necessarily requires the home side to be at full strength, especially as this is only a warm-up for the real challenges of the summer that lie ahead in the shape of the Twenty20 World Cup and the Ashes.

No doubt the usual platitudes will be uttered on the eve of the first Test and it wouldn't be at all surprising if an extra effort is made by the hosts to emphasise how important winning these matches and reclaiming of the Wisden Trophy are. It is instructive, though, to know what people really think about you and Morris has made clear England's disregard for the West Indies, especially with Ricky Ponting's Australians due there soon.

I suppose it will come across as exceptionally sensitive and irritatingly thin-skinned for others to hear us going on about disrespect. But you have to really know West Indian history, not just West Indian cricket history, to appreciate why being treated as an afterthought is so incendiary, especially after you've just beaten the same people who are dissing you again!

However, if it serves to light a fire in West Indian hearts amid the chill of Lord's and Riverside, then we may well have to be thankful to Mr Morris after all.

Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad