Windies walk the talk
This week our Round The World column looks at the need for West Indies to embrace a new work ethic if they are to return to their former glories
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Being a West Indian cricket supporter in 2004 must be like meeting your ageing Aunt for lunch in an exclusive restaurant, only for her to turn up wearing a skin-tight, leopard-print mini-skirt and a see-through blouse.
It's true that Aunt Sally used to be a model, but that was 20 years ago and, to be frank, the cleavage she was once so proud of is now wrinkled and the highlighted hair should have given way to something more natural years ago.
West Indian cricketers remain hopelessly image conscious. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with tight t-shirts, diamond studded ear-rings and gold chains, of course, but they do look so much cooler on winning players. It can't be proven that image is more important than results to any of the current players, but it certainly looks to occupy more of their time than seems appropriate for a team being heavily and consistently beaten.
Almost two years ago, the West Indian manager Ricky Skerritt presented a powerful and compelling argument for preserving the special culture of Caribbean cricket; the flair, the style and well, the 'image'. He was vehemently against introducing virtually any facet of, say, English, Australian or South African cricket to his team.
"We do not want to be Englishmen, we do not think like Australians and we are not going to impose a South African-style workhorse approach," said Skerritt with understandable passion. "We are different and we have our way of doing things
Earlier on this tour Skerritt was approached by a mischievous news reporter in East London during a heavily rain-affected four-day match against Border. He was asked for a comment about some of the players being seen in a nightclub at 3am. "Don't know anything about it and don't care," the manager replied with a wave of his hand. Like the gold chains, leather jackets and earrings on his players, it was an undeniably cool response.
So here's the way it looks to South Africans. Either stay cool and keep losing, or put hip on hold and try a bit harder to win.
Sometimes you could swear the players' major objective during training is avoid breaking into a sweat. During matches, non-players have hardly left the dressing room and pre-match fielding drills are as energetic as a chess-match warm-up. He may be a lovely man, but Gus Logie has been the most anonymous coach ever to visit this country. Did you even know he was the West Indian coach? The bowling coach, Kenny Benjamin, has the demeanour of a man given a free holiday with a dozen of his best mates.
Viv Richards and Brian Lara are two of the most powerful men in the history of cricket, let alone West Indian cricket, but what is needed (from an outsider's point of view, of course) is a third, equally powerful man. And however blasphemous this may sound, he surely can't be a West Indian. Perhaps there really is too much pride to swallow, perhaps it simply cannot happen, but a new coach is sorely needed and he needs to be a man with no connection to 'Caribbean Cool', no history of gold chains or rap.
Aunt Sally was a beauty in her day, but now she is more embarrassing than beautiful. The West Indians must find her daughter and they must remember during their search that times have changed.
Neil Manthorp is a partner with the MWP Sport agency in South Africa.