April 20, 2001

West Indies woefully lacking in cricket sense

The West Indies continue to stumble from farce to funny to fantasy

The West Indies continue to stumble from farce to funny to fantasy. One has to wonder what is the real plan of the West Indian players involved in the fifth and final Test, and by extension, to the young men in this team wallowing in their own insecurity and mediocrity.

Sabina Park
Sabina Park Jamaica
Photo CricInfo

All went well for the toss, with Carl Hooper winning that part and deciding to bat on a placid pitch. Even before you could say "Sabina Park," a young man's hopes and even his future endeavours could have been compromised, and for what? Only the West Indian selectors know.

Without Brian Lara's lone hand of 81, the second time in as many games that he has shown some industry, the West Indies would have been in much worse trouble.

These days, though, Lara's efforts seem to come in the later Tests in each series. If properly analysed, this might point to a deficiency of preparation. "If one fails to prepare, then one must be prepared to fail." One gets the direct impression that Lara uses the first Test or two of a series to get into playing shape. Hence his better performances as the series gets to its conclusion.

Leon Garrick, who was notified less that 24 hours earlier that he would be playing in his first Test, fell to the very first ball he received, the first of the innings, caught at gully by Shaun Pollock from Allan Donald's bowling. If that was not a sacrifice, then nothing is.

Garrick had absolutely no real warning, especially after he would have heard Hooper, suggest after the fourth Test; "I will stick with the two openers we have, Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds, to have some continuity and to have these guys mature together."

Suddenly, in a panic, the West Indies had a new opener. Situations like these destroy some people's cricketing lives. For his sake, I hope that Garrick eventually does well, but I also hope he does not have to contend with the present West Indian selectors much longer. They simply have no clue.

In mid-morning and the afternoon, there was a regular procession of batsmen as Donald, Pollock and Jacques Kallis tore the West Indians upper and middle order apart. It was 53-3 at lunch as Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle followed Garrick to the showers.

Brian Lara
Lara - more application
Photo CricInfo

There has been talk about fines for this West Indies team for lack of performances. I wonder what is the penalty when one looks as though one knows no cricket at all. Certainly Gayle falls into that category.

For the seventh time in nine innings, Gayle was out in the cordon behind the wicket, mostly in the gully, where he thinks he will get runs. The only problem is that his feet are always badly placed, so the ball will always be airborne. The West Indies coach, Roger Harper, may have, somehow missed this glaring fault, since no correction seems to be forthcoming. In the meantime, the South Africans miss little.

Just before tea, the West Indies were buckling badly at 113-6, despite a 53 run partnership between Lara and Hooper.

Once Hooper had been outfoxed into hooking airily at Pollock to depart for 25, it was left to Lara and Merv Dillon to put on 54 for the seventh wicket.

Hooper too should be fined, perhaps his entire match fee, since he had to be blind not to have seen that he was being set up. The deep backward square-leg and the wide fine leg were both in position for the uncontrolled hook. Yet the West Indian captain obliged.

In the real world the coach would have been fired for such ineptitude, but this is the West Indies cricket team, so anything is possible.

Pollock has taken 4-24 from 23 probing overs, but it was Allan Donald's fiery return, 4-47 from 22 overs, which caused the West Indies more trouble. Wicket-keeper Mark Boucher helped too, despite having a bad day, by his standards. He had five catches in the West Indies innings.

Dininath Ramnarine is 28 not out, his highest Test score, while Courtney Walsh, playing in his last Test, his 132nd, is yet to score.

Overall, it was another totally diabolical effort by the West Indian batsmen. I doubt that fines would help. They need some cricketing sense, not dollars and cents.