West Indies were never going to chase 375 April 11, 2007

Self-inflicted pain

Fazeer Mohammed



Brian Lara's dismissal, bowled off the inside-edge by Jacques Kallis, was probably the lethal gust of wind that effectively left Caribbean aspirations in ruins © Getty Images

"Dey wukkup in de West Indies bowling!"

Relentless cut-tail has the remarkable power of stripping the veneer of decorum from any occasion, moving Adriel Richard, the CMC CricketPlus producer, to draw on his Bajan dialect, in the midst of a "live" update, to describe the extent to which West Indies bowlers were torn apart by South Africa's rampant batsmen.

"357 to win. Just like the caliber of bullet WI should shoot themselves with."

As this text message from a disgruntled fan back home revealed, a macabre sense of humour also prevailed at the interval in Grenada, with supporters of the regional side everywhere finding different ways to express their frustration, anger and pain at the manner in which the team on whom they have invested so much emotional energy dragged them to a new low in what has already been an increasingly dispiriting World Cup experience.

Even for a people given to often unfounded levels of optimism, especially in apparently hopeless causes involving their beloved regional side, it was asking a lot of a deflated home team to get anywhere close to a daunting target of 357 needed to keep any lingering Caribbean interest in this tournament alive, a prospect made all the more depressing with two Super Eight matches still to play next week in Barbados.

Maybe it was the memory of how humiliated they felt four years ago when, as hosts, they could not even advance out of the first-round grouping that prompted the South African top-order's merciless plunder in the quest to keep their own ambitions alive after the shock defeat to Bangladesh last Saturday in Guyana. It was an assault that silenced boisterous home fans keen on celebrating the magnificent reincarnation of the Grenada National Stadium.

More than the other new or redeveloped venues around the region, this impressive structure is symbolic of what can be achieved by the people of our tiny territories (with a little help from the Chinese, let's not forget) when properly motivated, even after the ravages of two devastating hurricanes only two-and-a-half years ago. Issues of accountability and sustainability notwithstanding, the point is that we can achieve a minor miracle, even if the fact that it has primarily been at the prodding of external forces and with the enticing prospect of financial rewards that will remain more than a little troubling.

At 87 for 3 after 15 overs, with Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan in the middle, rebuilding a stadium almost from rubble would have seemed to be like chicken-feed compared to pulling off a record-breaking World Cup victory.

The poignancy of the moment was hard to avoid: a beleaguered captain in partnership with his talented but often impetuous deputy trying to rebuild the crumbling edifice of what were, just over two weeks ago, grandiose expectations of glory on home soil come April 28.

For all of Lara's proven genius with the bat and Sarwan's felicitous elegance, the overwhelming feeling was one of an effort too little, too late, even in the midst of strokeplay that almost took the breath away.

Patently fallible as captain and tactician (his decision to delay employing the final power-play until the 45th over was a recipe for even greater carnage), he remains peerless, even three weeks from his 38th birthday, as a strokeplayer, a square-drive off Andre Nel to the point boundary in the 17th over reminding everyone as to just how majestically destructive he can still be. His dismissal, though, bowled off the inside-edge by Jacques Kallis, was probably the lethal gust of wind that effectively left Caribbean aspirations in ruins.



'If the desolation was not as stark and the atmosphere not as suffocatingly sterile as at other venues so far, most notably the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, there was still an artificiality about it all' © Cricinfo Ltd

Too little, too late may also define the efforts by the World Cup organisers to bring some "West Indianness" to the tournament. Again it was more than a little unusual to see the ground, on a national holiday, for an ODI involving the West Indies, with hundreds of empty seats. If the desolation was not as stark and the atmosphere not as suffocatingly sterile as at other venues so far, most notably the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, there was still an artificiality about it all. Apparently the new campaign to energise the World Cup atmosphere is entitled "Ram de Dance". But they could have called it "Rama the Jamma" and it wouldn't really matter, simply because too many people feel betrayed by the entire event, taken for granted in what was expected to be their unstinting support for West Indies in particular and cricket in general, to the extent that they would not bat an eye at the boot camp-style restrictions in their desire to be part of the spectacle at any cost.

As they say, you can fool some of the people all the time, but even for people as gullible as we tend to be around here, you can't fool all of us all the time. Yet the mamaguile continues. On Monday, the media were advised that there was no such thing as "cheap tickets" for matches in Grenada. Troy Garvey, media communications director for the LOC here, explained that the prices of tickets had not been reduced, just the sizes of certain categories.

So, for example, if tickets for a certain category were going slowly, that category was reduced and the extra seats incorporated in a cheaper category.

If you can see any difference between that explanation and saying that tickets are now cheaper, then you're as disconnected from reality as so many key personnel involved with this World Cup.