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West Indies' legacy left in the hands of schoolboys

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Can West Indies improve at Headingley? (2:50)

Melinda Farrell and Jarrod Kimber discuss how West Indies can improve after a heavy defeat in the opening Test against England at Edgbaston. (2:50)

Failing to run hard. Poking at wide ones. Not moving one's feet. Hands in pockets as the ball is bowled. Not backing up. Not enough singles. Fielders too deep. Running down the middle of the wicket. No control over line. Playing across the line when it's swinging. No diving to stop boundaries. Balls going through legs. Boundary balls served to order. Lifeless fielding. New ball not taken. Rash shots. Impatient bowling. Terrible techniques. Wasting the new ball.

If you had a list like this as a coach of a school team you'd be angry. But this is not even a complete list of the mistakes the West Indies made in the first Investec Test.

***

Alastair Cook brought up his fifty with a misfield to cover. He brought up his hundred when the ball was hit straight to a point fielder who was either set too deep, or simply asleep. His 150 came from an overpitched ball on the pads. His 200 was guided away to the vacant third man ... well not vacant in a cricket sense; there was a fielder there, Kyle Hope, he just didn't stop the ball.

At the start of day two, West Indies committed three fielding errors before drinks that would have embarrassed a stressed-out mollusc. For most of the first innings they looked about as interested in stopping runs as they were in penning love letters to donkeys. They wandered around the field like bored children, hands in pockets, no dives.

At one point there was a misfield, and the ball wriggled out behind the fielder. And no one chased it. Not the player who had missed it. Not the other players around it. For a couple of seconds, a ball that had been delivered in a Test match was trickling out towards long on, and not one West Indian fielder was chasing it.

***

The England players average 51 Tests each, the West Indies 17. There is one England player, Toby Roland-Jones, who has played fewer than 100 first-class matches, and even he has played 93. There is one West Indies player who has played over 100 - Kraigg Brathwaite with 110.

Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Moeen Ali have played 821 first-class matches between them; the entire West Indies team have amassed 675.

It's always been the case that there isn't enough first-class cricket played in the Caribbean. But this situation is even worse than it seems, because this team isn't even particularly young.

Kyle Hope has played only 34 matches, and while that makes him sound young, he isn't, he's 28. Mark Stoneman, two years older than Hope, has played 112 more first-class matches and scored 17 more hundreds. Hope was picked to bat at No. 3, yet he had just one first-class hundred coming into this series. Not the ideal hinterland for surviving English conditions and England's two leading wicket-takers of all time.

There are only two players in this team under the age of 24; this isn't a bunch of kids, this is a bunch of mid-20s cricketers who have neither experience nor decent records.

The bowlers were supposed to be the strength of this team. Sure, they lost Shannon Gabriel to fitness (and rhythm) concerns. But they still had a five-man attack apparently good enough that they could leave out Devendra Bishoo.

And Kemar Roach aside, none of the bowlers did the job that they were supposed to do. Alzarri Joseph wasn't quick, and he completely wasted the new ball on both occasions he was given it. Miguel Cummins was expected to come on as first change and keep the pressure up. He bowled horrendously to Joe Root at the start of his innings, and their good start was ended right there. Jason Holder's role is to clog up an end, not clog up the opportunity to take a new pink ball under lights. And Roston Chase was supposed to give the seamers some extended breaks and work for the bowler at the other end - most of the time he seemed to struggle to land the ball within a metre of where he intended.

No one was entirely horrendous, all of them had moments when they got it right, but aside from Kemar Roach, not one of them looked like they were of Test quality. And they produced a staggering amount of boundaries.

Alastair Cook hit three in one over. Enough said.

***

A West Indian batsman has made a hundred in a game that featured James Anderson and the pink ball this summer. His name is Shivnarine Chanderpaul. And this season for Lancashire he is averaging 67. At 43, he might still be the best West Indian Test batsman in the world.

The second-best batsman may well be Darren Bravo; he is also not playing. At 28, with a Test average of 40, an overseas double-century, he should be at the peak of his powers, and instead, he was in litigation with CWI after tweeting that the board president Dave Cameron was a "big idiot". He did apologise to resolve things with the board but the Test squad for England had already been picked by then.

Both of these players have played a part in their own downfall, but when you are taking on Anderson and the ball is swinging around like an alien super missile, you want to call upon the guy who averages over 50 away from home and the guy who was your best player for the best part of 20 years.

But it isn't just two players that West Indies are missing, it's almost an entire team. Chris Jordan and Jofra Archer both play in county cricket but were born and raised in Barbados. Jordan has already played for England; Archer will soon enough. Both could fit into this West Indies side as it stands. Jordan could even be its captain. Archer's first-class bowling average is 23; his batting average is 30.

And, for all the fears of a talent drain inspired by Patrick Ewing's basketball career, West Indies continue to world-boss T20 cricket. Kieron Pollard is 30, he averages 37 in first-class cricket (more than most in this current team). Contrary to any reputation as a limited-overs slugger, he is a very smart cricketer, and can wobble a few overs if needed. Then there is Andre Russell, on a drugs-code violation maybe, but he can bowl 90 miles an hour, and can change a game in a session with the bat. He averages 20 with the ball in first-class cricket, took two five-wicket hauls against India A in consecutive games, and hasn't played a first-class match since February 2014.

And then there's Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Darren Sammy, and Jerome Taylor, if you so please. They could, in theory, also call upon Daniel Bell-Drummond and Keith Barker, two other county players who would qualify for West Indies. Oh, and Chris Gayle, a former captain with a couple of Test triple-centuries to his name.

A team of Gayle, Bell-Drummond, Bravo, Chanderpaul, Simmons (he kept once), Pollard, Jordan, Russell, Archer, Narine, and Taylor would beat this current team. And it could be coached by Phil Simmons, who turned Ireland into a Test team, and helped West Indies win a World T20. Then he was sacked for suggesting that some of the players in this list should actually be selected.

This is a fantasy team, and could in no way exist in the real world for many reasons. The most important factor is the financial lure: whether that is of playing for England, of playing in England, or of playing for franchises whose salaries completely dwarf that which the West Indies administrators are able to pay their players. In some cases, the political problems have been caused by a poor CWI board, who have created extra tensions by acting like big idiots for much of the last few years. And to some extent that is changing under the new CEO, Johnny Grave, and Director of Cricket, Jimmy Adams, but the money problem still endures.

Since Learie Constantine played for West Indies as a means of getting a gig in English league cricket, West Indies players have always looked to leave if they wanted to be paid appropriately for their cricket. Garfield Sobers had to be convinced by Bradman and Benaud to play for West Indies over playing league cricket. County cricket after World War Two often had West Indies players in abundance, and they had their own team in Kerry Packer's World Series too.

So this problem isn't new, and without a global Test cricket structure in which the players are paid from a fixed pool fed by shared TV rights, there is no real way to stop the drain. The best players will continue to go where they have the brightest and most secure future, and West Indies cricket will continue to send out A teams for marquee Test series.

***

West Indies fought through their first session of batting in this Test match. The ball was moving around, they lost their most dependable player, Kraigg Brathwaite, early, but they didn't give up. And when the rain came they were a respectable 44 for 1.

The next day, however, all that fight vanished. They couldn't make a run, they couldn't get off strike, and they couldn't keep a batsman in. Five balls after losing Kyle Hope to a good ball, Kieran Powell tried to take a single.

The last time Powell came to England, in 2012, he averaged 14.2 and never passed 33. This time, he was pushing the ball to mid-on and taking a single, but he never got up to top speed, he never dived, and he never made it to the other end. This meant that they lost two early wickets and managed the rare feat of having two players out in the middle who hadn't faced a single ball. Not surprisingly one of them went early too, so they lost 3 for 2 in 24 balls.

Later Shai Hope, who is probably the most talented batsmen in this side, drove loosely on the up while the ball was still moving and was bowled. Jason Holder tried to be aggressive against Moeen Ali, played and missed for three balls straight, then finally got the edge he'd been looking for.

Jermaine Blackwood was the only batsman who looked like he could make runs, or stay out there. In the end, he made more runs in one innings than any of his team-mates managed in two. They ended up 75 runs short of Alastair Cook.

***

There is an unspoken law that forbids you from talking about the current state of West Indies cricket without talking about the glory days, Let's call it Clive's Law. Every bad moment of West Indian play must be immediately compared to a great player, moment or feeling from the past. Look how bad these bowlers are, remember the four fast men of death. That was a terrible way to play the short ball, remember when they used to hook like Gods. They all look like timid schoolkids, remember when they owned every blade of turf.

When the current West Indies team takes the field, they aren't just playing the opposition; they are playing the ghosts of the greatest cricket dynasty that ever lived.

Every time they land in England they are bombarded with articles about how great the team once was. The former West Indians are in the press, being asked what they think of a bloke with a first-class average of 33. The loudest sound in current West Indies cricket is the sigh people emit when they talk about the old days.

England don't enforce the follow-on often, but even they couldn't see any need to continue this match a moment longer. West Indies were entirely defeated, they could have batted in four innings and there would only have been an outside chance of England batting again.

There was no fight in the second innings; they were a boxer standing unconscious being propped up by the ropes. Brathwaite nudged for a little while; no one else went past 24. The footwork was horrendous. They lost a wicket every 16 minutes and 15 seconds. When Stuart Broad hit the pads of Roston Chase, he didn't even look back at the umpire, he didn't appeal, or even celebrappeal. It was quite clear that, when an English bowler delivered a ball, a West Indian batsman would be soon be out.

***

At nine wickets down in the first innings, Miguel Cummins came out to bat. Blackwood had just made an error in allowing Joseph the strike early in an over which lead to his wicket, so he was now trying to control the strike, and he hit a ball early in the over to deep point and didn't run.

To make sure there was no confusion, he came down the wicket and chatted to Cummins explaining the whole plan. Cummins listened and nodded. Blackwood went back to his stance and guided a beautiful boundary to third man, then clipped another ball into the leg side and took two. Off the fifth ball, with the field up, he inside-edged and failed to get his single. So, off the last ball, it was clear that he had to get to the other end.

So Cummins backed up, and started sprinting from the moment the ball was released, and stole the single that gave Blackwood the strike and kept him on course for his hundred.

No, sorry, that's not what happened. Cummins didn't back up. Or even react to the chance of a run, and he ended up well short.

It wasn't the biggest error of the day. It was just another mistake for the Schoolboy XI.