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When India beat the West Indies by an innings in two Test matches in a total of five days just a few weeks ago, we thought that our cricket was at its lowest ebb. We took consolation from the fact that India was the second-ranked Test playing nation, way above us at No 6. But even the most die-hard West Indian fan would be hard-pressed to take any "positives" from being beaten by an innings, in two and a half days playing time, by New Zealand, a team ranked two places below us.
When the Windies, with the help of the rain, scrambled a draw in the first Test, we felt some pride in the way the team fought after following on by 396 runs. The two Darrens - Bravo and Sammy - put their heads down and fought like wounded tigers, after Shivnarine Chanderpaul had had a rare failure. We would not have minded had we lost the match but were elated to be saved by the weather.
And then a few days later, we are back to the same old story: a spineless performance and capitulation in the most pathetic manner. No guts, no fight, no pride.
Sometimes statistics lie, but not this time. Once again, they highlight the depressing tale of West Indies cricket. On a green pitch, tailor-made for good seam bowling, our pace "attack" of Tino Best, Shannon Gabriel and Darren Sammy (I laugh just writing this) looked almost pedestrian. With the bowling short and wide, the pitch became innocuous, and the New Zealand batsmen feasted.
Despite this, New Zealand made about 180 runs more than they should have, courtesy two simple dropped catches by Kirk Edwards and Best, the latter described as "laughable" by Ian Bishop on commentary. Still, 441 seemed small compared to the 609 in the first Test.
As far as West Indies batting is concerned, there is little difference between Tests and ODIs. As if to prove me wrong (and I was delighted to be so proven), we batted for 162 overs in the second innings of the first Test. Aha. We've turned the corner. Oops. Turns out that the corner was just the arc of a circle and we were soon back to where we started. We were bowled out for 193 in 49.5 overs in the first innings and for 175 in 54.5 overs in the second. On the same wicket, New Zealand's ordinary bowlers were made to look unplayable with a little discipline, by bowling full and straight.
While it is true that the players picked as batsmen should be making the runs, the contribution made by the lower order is critical in the modern game. But, apart from that aberration by Sammy in the first Test, our bowlers have shown no appetite for a fight.
In the first Test, the last five New Zealand wickets put on 224 runs and, in the second Test, the last four put on 145. By contrast, in the first innings of the second Test, the last five West Indian wickets put on a grand total of 11 runs and, in the second innings, the last five fell for 29. No one seemed to have any pride in making the opposition work for his wicket.
We were all flabbergasted when, after the Indian debacle, the West Indies selectors decided to send the same team to New Zealand. We were puzzled why Sammy said "it wouldn't be fair to change the combination" for the second Test, even after Shannon Gabriel had bowling figures of 0 for 164 in 32 overs in the first. But despite these gaffes by the selectors, the lack of discipline and fight by those chosen is appalling.
I've been following West Indies cricket since the 1963 tour of England. I've savoured the peaks and suffered in the valleys, but this is the most depressed I've ever felt about our cricket team. It doesn't pain as much as it might, though, since it is almost expected these days.
When you hit rock-bottom, the only way is up. But, knowing the make-up of West Indies cricket, we might find a way to dig a hole at the bottom of the well. It will probably start with the selectors showing "full confidence" with this set of players.
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