Snorting and pawing at the ground
Is it possible to transform a team from makeweights to contenders merely through a subtle shift of attitude? If the West Indian experience of the last few months is anything to go by, going from the top of one's game to the bottom is as easy as sitting on a waterslide. Getting back to the form they showed in Jamaica at the beginning of February, however, may not be quite such an easy assignment.
Nevertheless, for Fidel Edwards, West Indies' one shining light throughout a dismal tour of England, the ICC World Twenty20 offers his side the opportunity for a fresh start, and he believes his team-mates will go into the competition with a point to prove, given all the criticism that has come their way during their capitulation in the Test and ODI series.
Had their schedule not been altered late last year following an agreement between the ECB and the WICB, West Indies would have arrived in England last week, along with the rest of the competing teams, having enjoyed a four-week break from international cricket and - in the case of star players such as Edwards and Chris Gayle - a lucrative stint at the IPL in South Africa.
Instead, an extra tour was shoehorned into the calendar, those IPL stints were reduced to two weeks, and though Edwards himself excelled in the Tests, taking 6 for 92 in England's only innings at Lord's, his team-mates let him down in the field with dropped catches and a sullen demeanour from first ball to last. Not least the captain, Gayle, who arrived 48 hours before the first Test and managed a solitary fifty in six innings.
"We are all cricketers and professionals, but that tour was put together at really short notice," Edwards told Cricinfo. "We'd just beaten England over four Tests back home, so it was pretty hard to lose the series in only two Tests here. But it was a learning experience for us, and hopefully we can put it behind us, move on, and get a good run in the Twenty20 and win it."
Such lofty ambitions may seem a world away from West Indies' passive surrender earlier in the month, but Edwards knows that the shortest format suits his team down to the ground. In recent encounters, they have beaten England twice (once, in the guise of the Stanford Superstars, by a humiliating 10-wicket margin), and Australia in a rain-reduced shoot-out in Barbados, and on Thursday at Wormsley they finally registered their first victory of the tour, by 14 runs in a warm-up against Scotland.
"Any win is good for a team that has been losing," said Edwards, who was attending the launch of the Barclays StreetChance initiative in West London. "It's been pretty hard for us on this tour, so coming out on top against Scotland is a step forward. But we haven't won a game yet, other than a warm-up, so everyone has to make a team effort. Everyone has a point to prove because we want to take that trophy back home."
West Indies did not fare well in the inaugural World Twenty20, losing both their group-stage matches, first to the hosts, South Africa, despite an astonishing innings of 117 from 57 balls from Gayle, and then decisively, to Bangladesh by six wickets in Johannesburg. In that second game, however, Gayle made a third-ball duck, and Edwards was sure that his captain, in the spotlight for the wrong reasons so far, would be pivotal to their fortunes.
Even so, Gayle himself was typically inscrutable on the eve of the tournament, declaring to the gathered media at Lord's that, contrary to Edwards' assertions, he would have nothing to prove at all come the start of the action. "He's pretty cool all the time," said Edwards. "Even when he's angry, he still keeps a certain coolness about him, but all of the guys know what he's about. We don't need him to tell us. Chris is crucial in all forms of the game. He'll give us a good start."
Talking of good starts, that might well prove to be Edwards' speciality with the ball in this tournament. He made a sensational start to his IPL career, delivering four overs for six runs in his opening game, against Kolkata Knight Riders, then bowling Jesse Ryder with his very first ball of the second match, against Bangalore Royal Challengers. With him leading the line, Deccan Chargers won all four of their opening fixtures en route to claiming the title, and though he took only five wickets in his six matches, his raw pace claimed first-over wickets on three separate occasions.
Though Edwards masked his disappointment impressively by bowling with gusto against England, it was clear he would have preferred to have remained in South Africa instead of leaving with 10 games of the campaign still to go. "I would have loved to be there at the end, but I've got to represent my country to the fullest and that's a cricketer's life - you can't do nothing about it," he said. "But those guys at Deccan were really great. It felt like home, like a family, and I fitted in from the first day. We played some really good cricket and guys like Gilly [Adam Gilchrist] and [Herschelle] Gibbs were terrific."
All of which adds to the mystery of why he has been overlooked in the format by his native Barbados. Edwards played two full matches in the original Stanford 20/20 in 2006, but was entirely overlooked for the second (and, by all accounts, last) edition two years later, which meant he was ineligible for the Stanford Superstars squad, and so missed the chance to become an instant dollar millionaire against England in Antigua last year.
"I'm still asking that question," he said. "I was really disappointed not to be selected, but I've moved on from there. I watched every game they played and they did terrific, but it's something you've just got to get past. There are a lot of fast bowlers in Barbados so you're always fighting for a spot, especially when you're off playing for West Indies."
It's unlikely Edwards will be omitted from any line-ups in the near future, however, especially given the success with which he has switched between formats in the past few weeks. "I've been playing for a while, so I've got the experience to change my game," he said. "In Twenty20s you have to bowl a lot fuller, especially at the death, and you've got to be mindful of what you're doing. But it's still cricket."
For all the riches and excitement on offer in Twenty20s, however, Edwards still has a strong affection for the five-day game, as his recent displays against England amply demonstrated. "When we beat England in the Caribbean, which is something we'd never done since I started, I saw a lot of older cricketers and understood how it must have been in the old days. To have done that in the Caribbean was really terrific for me."
During the second Test in Durham earlier this month, Edwards bowled unchanged throughout the morning session of the third day, and as his duel with James Anderson showed, he relishes the opportunity for dogfights that aren't available in four-over bursts.
"Test cricket should be No.1 for every cricketer," he said. "I love to play Test cricket, it's the main cricket. Twenty20 is different and more exciting, and shorter as well, so you get more time off, but every cricketer should want to play Test cricket. Especially when the weather is cool! The more you run in, the more heat you have in your body."
But the weather is hotting up in England at the moment, and so too is the cricket. With the sun on their backs and a new fire in their bellies, West Indies have the ability to beat both Australia and Sri Lanka, and escape from the toughest group in the tournament with their pride restored. For Edwards, however, such mood fluctuations haven't entered the equation. He's been going flat out all year.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo