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TTExpress

Enjoying the moment

Enjoy West Indies's ODI triumph, but do please put in some perspective and context, says Fazeer Mohammed

Fazeer Mohammed
09-Jul-2007


Chris Gayle and his merry men don't mind donning coloured pyjamas so much © Getty Images
Happy days are here again, at least until November.
Such has been the desperation among West Indians and fans of Caribbean cricket everywhere that almost everyone is just relieved to be able to rejoice in a series victory. For most, issues of context and perspective will come later.
The intensity, quality and uninhibited celebrations on the way to Saturday's 93-run whipping of England to clinch the three-match limited-over duel are hailed as ample testament of the ability of our boys to lift themselves from the shadowy depths of embarrassing mediocrity to the sunlit summit of peerless excellence, all in a matter of a few days.
Even if some of them may still be feeling the effects of what was expected to be some heavy-duty partying in Nottingham, the euphoria is expected to continue all of this week in Dublin.
Matches against the Netherlands tomorrow, Scotland on Thursday and Ireland on Saturday should provide more opportunity for flamboyant batsmanship, incisive bowling and thrilling outcricket. Chris Gayle's men may not be as sharp as on the last ten days of the England leg of the tour, but anything resembling the performances in the two Twenty20 matches and three ODIs against Paul Collingwood's squad will be more than enough to brush aside the Associate Member nations.
Then, of course, there is the chance for this good feeling to be sustained at the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in two months' time.
Such is their obvious enjoyment of the fast-paced, short-lived demands of the abbreviated versions of the game that the West Indies will inevitably be mentioned as a definite chance to be crowned inaugural champions of the sport's latest and most popular international hybrid.
Common among all of the assessments since Saturday is an appreciation of what has been termed the almost complete transformation of a side that looked so dysfunctional and disinterested while enduring a 3-0 hammering in the four-Test rubber. But is this anything new?
The image of Gayle hoisting the NatWest Trophy in the midst of jubilant teammates is no different from the way the West Indies signed off on the last tour of England, when Brian Lara was the triumphant captain after a dramatic victory over the hosts in the Champions Trophy final eased the pain of a 4-0 Test series whitewash at the height of that 2004 summer.
In the intervening period, there has been a succession of "transformations" from looking almost hopelessly out of it in Test cricket only to battle neck-and-neck and frequently overcome the very best from the moment the coloured clothing is pulled on and the white balls appear
In the intervening period, there has been a succession of "transformations" from looking almost hopelessly out of it in Test cricket only to battle neck-and-neck and frequently overcome the very best from the moment the coloured clothing is pulled on and the white balls appear.
In Sri Lanka in 2005, a depleted team defeated the hosts and then came within eight runs of upsetting India, a victory that would have earned them a place in the tri-nations final in Colombo. Early last year in New Zealand, a bowl-off was needed to decide the one-off Twenty20 clash while the tourists squandered definite winning positions in two of the first four one-dayers before emerging victorious in the last match of the series.
Back home in the Caribbean, confidence and competence in ODIs continued to soar upwards with a 4-1 dismissal of India, followed by strong showings in south-east Asia with appearances in the finals of the DLF Cup in Malaysia and in defence of the Champions Trophy in India. Subsequent limited-over series in Pakistan, India and then the World Cup on home soil were huge disappointments, but the fact of the matter is that contemporary West Indian cricketers are much better suited temperamentally to matches of shorter duration, as the unending succession of Test losses confirms.
It is not so much an issue of transformation as sustaining the effort and maintaining intensity. Even during the recent Test series, the West Indies held sway on certain days and sessions, only to fall away the next morning or after an interval.
They dominated the third day of the first Test at Lord's with the bat, and bowled purposefully on day one and fought an excellent rearguard on the penultimate day of the third Test at Old Trafford. Even in the series finale at Chester-le-Street, England were on the ropes at 165 for six in their first innings, while a rain-affected match was still on course for a draw on the last afternoon with the redoubtable Shivnarine Chanderpaul and the effervescent Dwayne Bravo holding firm.
Yet for all that, there was only disappointment and defeat at the end, simply because most lack the mental strength required to sustain a high level of performance over successive days. The shorter the game, the more competitive we are, as all that abundant talent and intuitive brilliance are only required for a few hours or a few minutes.
The worrying corollary to that is the equally obvious reality that the West Indies will continue to struggle in Tests for the foreseeable future, especially with South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia looming as the next challenges in the traditional game. So like our excitable young cricketers, let's enjoy the moment and leave concerns about the next Test series for a little later.
The one thing we might want to consider, though, is adding a hypnotist to the already sizeable support staff. Brainwashing most of our players into believing that the first ball of every day and every session is the start of an ODI or Twenty20 could be the next short-term plan for ending the long drought in Tests.