Planning, the Windies way
Things are going very much according to plan for the West Indies cricketers in England. Chris Gayle's stated lack of interest in the traditional form of the game has obviously been adopted as the team mantra if the general absence of fight in the two one-sided Tests is anything to go by. Then just to reassure us that almost everyone wearing the burgundy colours is on board with the captain's enthusiastic preference for the Twenty20 stuff, we had the edifying spectacle of a swift batting capitulation under a brilliant blue sky in Sunday's one-day International in Bristol.
Given that not much energy and effort have been expended so far in the month since their arrival in the country, other than to try and stay warm, the Caribbean side should be all primed and ready for the real action - at least as they see it - when they take on Australia in their opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 on June 6 at The Oval in London. Already I'm feeling sorry for Ricky Ponting's side and wondering if they'll recover psychologically from the imminent hammering in time for the first Test of the Ashes series a month later in Cardiff.
Really, there's no other way to interpret the absence of thought almost from first ball to last of the 38.3 overs that the West Indies occupied in scratching together 160 runs on a good pitch in brilliant sunshine. Normally you would characterise the manner of most of the dismissals as either thoughtless or inept, from Gayle being bowled in Graeme Swann's first over attempting a second consecutive six off the spinner to No. 10 Sulieman Benn swiping needlessly with the very capable Darren Sammy at the other end and more than 14 overs still available.
However, given that most of these same players showed admirable fighting qualities over the past 18 months, especially a few weeks ago right here in the region against the same opponents, you just have to assume that there were other priorities occupying their precious time. At the very least, they must be saving themselves for something bigger, and it is unlikely that the something bigger is Tuesday's final ODI at Edgbaston.
Jerome Taylor's successful attempt at running himself out after he drove a delivery to Andrew Strauss at short extra-cover was probably the icing though on a very tall cake, comprising layer after layer of careless, sorry, distracted batsmanship that involved even the usually resolute Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who sliced an attempted pull to short third man.
Dwayne Bravo, fresh from his exertions on behalf of the Mumbai Indians in South Africa at the same time that the West Indians were being humiliated at Lord's and Chester-le-Street, was well on the way to upsetting the general trend of play with a typically flamboyant and adventurous half-century. But his dismissal - bowled in Paul Collingwood's first over - gave the lifelong Sunderland supporter an appetite for Trini wickets that was further satisfied by the removal of both Denesh Ramdin and Kieron Pollard.
Just on that point of Sunderland, maybe they were as distracted as so many others in England by the drama of the last day of the Premier League season and were channelling all their collective positive energy in the direction of the Stadium of Light up in the North-East where fellow West Indian Kenwyne Jones was trying to ensure that the team in red and white stripes got the required result at home to Chelsea?
No wonder Collingwood was batting in a hurry, his unbeaten 44 racing England to victory with 14 overs to spare and the sun still high in the late spring English sky, leaving the Man of the Match and others worried about the plight of either Sunderland, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough or Hull City in seeking to avoid the drop into the Championship Division to find a television and sweat over the second half of their respective games.
And, of course, there was the small matter of the grand finale to the Indian Premier League. How could I forget? After all, from captain to whoever is the cook, it is this well-remunerated vupping fiesta that has won over the hearts and minds of most of our cricketers, and with that match also reaching the halfway stage down in Johannesburg just as England were completing victory in the West Country, there would have been more than enough time after the boring post-match formalities to follow the action at the Wanderers and see if the Royal Challengers Bangalore were able to reach the target of 144 set by the Deccan Chargers.
For those of us here at home pondering overnight about the dilemma of trying to follow so many big sporting events taking place simultaneously, the West Indies' swift collapse also eased those concerns considerably, more so when Taylor sprayed two wides in his first three deliveries at the start of the England reply to confirm that there was no spark in the visitors' camp to ignite a miraculous fightback.
Yes, it took England fully 36 overs to take that unbeatable 1-0 lead, when it seemed that they would have accomplished the task in 20. But to all intents and purposes the match was over as a contest from the moment Bravo perished in the 28th over of the day, releasing those of us still hooked on West Indies cricket from the moral obligation to stay to the bitter end, especially with so much else going on.
In that sense, our boys did us a favour.
Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad