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Only after the series will we know whether the patient, who has been ailing for so long, is really accelerating his recuperation
February 9, 2009
Zaboca choka. Coconut bake and buljol. Guava cheese.
Seeing as I'm already eating my words just four days into this Test series, it makes sense to open with some more palatable ones should the West Indies be able to build on Sunday's sensational demolition of England at Sabina Park.
All stale jokes aside though, it's important for the Caribbean cricketers to continue doing what their English counterparts patently failed at in the opening Test of the four-match series, and stay focused on the task in front of them. Leave it to the fans and the media to get carried away in regurgitating the usual mantra of "turning the corner".
Yes, it is only expected that the players will be bubbling after avenging the humiliation they suffered at the hands of the same opponents at the same venue five years ago. But the task now is for skipper Chris Gayle and coach John Dyson to ensure it's back to business when they arrive in Antigua for the second Test, beginning on Friday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
After going three-and-a-half years without a single Test match victory, this triumph by an innings and 23 runs represents a third success in 13 months against highly-reputable opposition. Amid the euphoria of the moment and the fact that our former colonial masters have fallen at our feet for the first time in Tests in almost nine years, it is easy to overlook the fact that South Africa were outplayed from first ball to last in Port Elizabeth at the end of December 2007.
Three months later, after just failing to hang on for a draw in Guyana, a masterful batting display on the last day at the Queen's Park Oval saw a challenging target of 253 overhauled for the loss of only four wickets against a Sri Lankan attack spearheaded by Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. And, more recently, the two-Test series in New Zealand was drawn, meaning West Indies have now gone three consecutive Tests unbeaten for the first time since 2006 when the first three Tests of the four-match series at home to India were drawn.
If it appears ludicrous to be acknowledging such a statistic in the context of a team that once set a world record of 11 consecutive victories (against Australia - home and away - and England no less), it's important to acknowledge that the period of awesome invincibility was 25 years ago, and much as we long for the return to the glory days and would like to believe that Saturday's stunning developments in Kingston are further encouraging signs of a revival, the road to redemption remains a long, hard road to travel.
In many respects, it's like a world-class sprinter recovering from a vehicular accident. Everyone gets misty-eyed about increasingly distant images of him obliterating the field and setting new standards. Such dominance can be so intoxicating that many fans are willing themselves to believe that merely getting up from the wheelchair signifies that more gold medals are not too far away, ignoring in their enthusiasm and desperation for success the time-consuming and often intensely frustrating rehabilitation process that must still be followed.
Sabina Park 2009 should be seen as another step forward. A giant step? Maybe, but that will only become apparent over the remaining three matches of the series, after which we will have a clearer idea whether the patient, who has been ailing for so long, is really accelerating his recuperation or has suffered an all too familiar relapse.
In a situation like this, it may actually help West Indies' cause that the opponents are England, a team that that seems to revert to the default mode of being wracked by self-doubt and analysis paralysis at the first sign of trouble.
Sometimes you can make simple things very, very confusing, and when you stir 51 all out into a mixture of England support staff the size of a World Cup football squad and an English media the size of a small army, ready and willing to pull out the second-guessing microscope over the most irrelevant detail, you have a recipe for utter chaos.
Did we prepare too little? Did we prepare too much? Are we taking West Indies for granted? Are we too obsessed with the Ashes? Is the money of the Indian Premier League getting in the way? Is Andrew Strauss up to the job? Why did we axe Kevin Pietersen? And by the way, is the snowfall in London a distraction?
Because there is so much coverage of this series and so much weeping and wailing on behalf of England, not to mention studied treatises heralding the revival of West Indies cricket and comparisons of Jerome Taylor with Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and, for all I know, Roy Gilchrist, it's even more important now for West Indies to concentrate on the challenge in front of them.
That, you say, should be straightforward given the unexpected and emphatic success that they have just enjoyed. Well, skipper, if you believe it's that easy, then you don't really know too much about West Indies cricket, especially over the past 14 years. If anything, the challenge is now even greater for the current crop to prove that this is not just another one-and-done effort.
A single Test victory, even one as momentous as this, will never be enough for those who appreciate what West Indies cricket is all about.
Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, TrinidadFeeds: Fazeer Mohammed
© Trinidad & Tobago Express
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