West Indies v Australia 2008 / Features

Trinidad & Tobago Express

West Indies v Australia, 1st Test, Jamaica, 1st day

Same script for Windies

Fazeer Mohammed

May 23, 2008

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Amit Jaggernauth had to wait till after the lunch interval to get his first bowl in Test cricket © DigicelCricket.com/Brooks La Touche Photography
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It's a good thing I'm not a gambling man. Fifteen minutes before lunch yesterday at Sabina Park, I suggested to a colleague that it would be a safe bet to put US$500 on Amit Jaggernauth, the debutant offspinner, bowling the final over before the interval.

However Ramnaresh Sarwan, deputising for the still incapacitated Chris Gayle, was following a script that apparently had a few alterations from the one that previous West Indies captains have kept in their back pockets. So Jaggernauth didn't even have the opportunity of a token six deliveries in his first session as a Test cricketer, never mind that the third-wicket Australian pair of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey looked completely at ease against the medium-pace of Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy.

Daren Powell, who almost joined the already long injury list while attempting a bit of fielding at mid-on, was summoned for a second spell just before the break, leaving Jaggernauth's anxiety to increase heading into the afternoon with the prospect of being called upon to stem the tide with the rampaging Ponting in full flow and the remarkably consistent Hussey offering solid support.

This is not about making excuses if (or when, as those apparently opposed to any slow bowler getting a fair run in the regional side will say) Jaggernauth is carted to all parts of Sabina Park for the rest of the match. But it is just plain cricketing common sense to seek to maximise the chances of any new bowler - fast or slow - making an impact. To wait until all other options have been exhausted, telegraphs a lack of confidence in Jaggernauth, who will therefore see himself as nothing more than a last resort.

Anyway, it's early going yet, so let's wait and see if Jaggernauth, the 24-year-old Trinidadian, can rise to the challenge of taking on some of the most accomplished batsmen in the world in the first match of the three-Test series. Even then, it might not be good enough, as Nehemiah Perry will recall, the Jamaican off-spinner having quickly fallen out of favour despite taking five wickets in the second innings of his debut Test against Australia here in Kingston in 1999, a match the home side won by an emphatic ten-wicket margin.

Speaking about maximising chances at a time when proven world-class performers are thin on the ground, you would think that the fitness and general readiness of our top echelon of players should be a priority. Yet, here we are, challenging the undisputed champions of Test cricket without our regular captain and the lone fairly-consistent opening batsman (Gayle), the region's most effective fast bowler of the past 12 months (Jerome Taylor) and an opening batsman who impressed on debut against the Sri Lankans at the Queen's Park Oval (Sewnarine Chattergoon).

Ryan Hinds was also out of consideration for this first Test because of injury, but that is par for the course for a player who has promised much but delivered very little. This is due in no small part to a succession of ailments that can leave any team he plays for handicapped mere hours into the match. This was found out by the West Indies on the mid-afternoon of the first day of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Guyana, when he suffered a hamstring pull.

I wonder what the team's Australian physiotherapist, CJ Hunter, has to say about all of this. Stephen Partridge, the previous physio, didn't have too many complimentary things to say about the current crop of West Indian cricketers as far as their commitment to a prescribed strength and fitness regimen in between tours and home series was concerned.

We're so much in the business of concocting conspiracy theories involving devious external influences to explain away our shortcomings that I wonder what the excuse is for so many Caribbean players breaking down so regularly. I can hear someone muttering about the folly of expecting Australians (John Dyson, and Hunter especially) to mastermind efforts by a West Indian side to get the better of an Australian team, and being utterly convinced of the veracity of their argument.

Still, we can't avoid the blinding reality that we say we want to be the best, but aren't prepared to put in the hard work that it takes to reach that level. The injuries that seem to be so much a part of the West Indian cricket landscape don't occur just by some fluke or freakish accident. On the odd occasion it might, but not with such alarming regularity.

Railing against emasculation by ICC regulations or biased elite umpires may strike a responsive chord with an audience that chooses to be blind to reality, but who do we blame when our players are falling down left, right and centre?

Even the Australian team's media officer was doing laps around Sabina Park at lunchtime yesterday. It really is all about nurturing a culture of excellence and a work ethic that transforms the desire for continuous improvement into meaningful progress. Let's hope we at least learn from this experience.

Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

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Fazeer Mohammed Fazeer Mohammed's claim to cricketing fame is that he once played in the same 2nd XI at the Queen's Park Cricket Club in Trinidad with Brian Lara. It was only a brief association, as one was on the way up and the other refusing to come to terms with the depressing reality that his limited ability would take him no further in the game. It certainly has been for the good of the game that Lara never allowed such severely critical assessments to stunt his development. In allowing his fellow countryman to blaze a trail on the field, Mohammed has opted to follow West Indies cricket from the media centre since 1988 as a journalist, and since 1992 as a radio commentator.
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