February 9, 2009

It's only one step forward

Only after the series will we know whether the patient, who has been ailing for so long, is really accelerating his recuperation

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 © AFP

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, Trinidad

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kaustubh on February 12, 2009, 14:24 GMT

    I am an Indian but have been a great fan of Windies' glorious past; the incredible feats of myriad great players that Islands have produced since War had actually made it more miserable to watch their team's decline since last 10 years or so.While it'd be a tad presumptuous to say that WI are back, this does bring back the memories of Marshall & Ambrose[kudos to Taylor].The thing is that WI,have shown glimpses, which themselves have been few & far between, of their strength..here's one for that this doesn't remain an isolated memory.& Yeah, Big Benn, what can he bring us?? Was little taken aback to see a giant of a bowler sending down left-arm tweakers & that too before lunch on day one at Sabina Park, but in the end, its all good. From day one, we knew Poms are not gonna have it easy...but i was appalled at their total surrender. Is it really, as Andrew Miller pointed out, IPL distraction? Sad reason, if true, it'd rankle more than 46 @ Barbados'94. Hoping that Eng bounce back!

  • Crystal on February 11, 2009, 16:58 GMT

    After reading this, I can't get past the zaboca choka, coconut bake and buljol. It's making me hungry.

  • Shahid on February 11, 2009, 5:30 GMT

    There is no need to make big deal of this pathetic performance by the England team. The only reaon that England's loss is so much in the news is that England team is very over rated where as the reality is that today's English team is very weak and inconsistent. One should not be surprised by such defeats and in my opinion don't be surprised if West Indies performs poorly in the next test for the same reasons however they are not over rated like England.

  • Paul on February 11, 2009, 4:27 GMT

    Cliches about single swallows aside, we'd all love to see this turn into the start of something magical for the Windies. If it did, it would be ironic for a team who built their 1980's dominance on half a dozen players who would qualify as 'great' to start their climb back only once their last 'great' player retired.

  • gavan on February 10, 2009, 11:58 GMT

    Thank the Lord(s) for that beautiful victory by the men in maroon. After the long depressing dominance of England, please let this not be a one-off moment of bliss-now they know it can be done, let the Windies blow a hurricane long enough to finally take the Wisden trophy back to the Carribbean, where it truly belongs. Despite these wishes, and the sensible'one swallow doesn't make a summer' sentiments of Fazeer-no one will ever forget just what a sweet, splendid single swallow it was.

  • Hilbert on February 9, 2009, 22:54 GMT

    There seems to be a difference in the approach by the West Indies team. They seem to be concentrating more at the wicket. When runs are slow in coming they take what's offered them. With that approach the team was able to bat through just about 6 sessions. That wear down the opponents and give them the chance to knock them over getting 20 wickets in a match.

  • Andy on February 9, 2009, 17:39 GMT

    The last guys comments are spot on, play for the team and not for yourself Pieterson. He was like this at his forst club in the UK, Cannock, and we had to keep telling him that there is no I in team.

    To defend hom by saying thats the wats he bats is obscene, as it is arguable that he has lost England 2 test matches within 6 months or so by giving his wicket away on 97 when he was well set.

    Perhaps I will have a bet on his score in the next test, 97 seems to be a good number at present.

  • Michael on February 9, 2009, 17:01 GMT

    To my mind, Fazeer Mohammed is the best writer on West Indies cricket at the moment, although Tony Cozier runs him very close. Fazeer is right on about his analysis that WI need to keep focus on the job at hand. All their supporters will have that queasy feeling that it all could collapse in chaos. WI have the team and the talent. What they must show is belief and heart. As for the team from England, yes, their media will trot out every imaginable, and unimaginable, reason for the defeat. Same old, same old. But then, who cares that they can never take defeat with grace and dignity?

  • ALLIM on February 9, 2009, 15:52 GMT

    this is a good article but i can't understand why all the attention is on england for their dismal performance on why they lost. they lost because they were outplayed by a good team performance. no one in the windies care weather the ECB has problems or the players have personal issues don't take it away from windies players we should be commenting on the good performances Gayle, Sarwan, Benn, Taylor, Nash and the other supporting players make them feel good so the continue to support each other and to win the series stop commenting on england and their problems we had ours no one cared then. we took our losses and criticism and moved on.

  • mo on February 9, 2009, 13:31 GMT

    I am hearing all sorts of reasons as to why England did so badly in the last test match, yet no one is mentioning the irresponsible innings Pieterson played. If he had played for his team in teh first innings, England would have scored many more runs and the pressure would have been on WI. It doesnt matter how good a player is, he has to play for his team and not for himself. People are making excuses for him by saying 'that is the way he is..' or 'that's his style of play..'. well this style of play can cause teh team problems.

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