The Zimbabweans in the West Indies, 1999-2000
West Indies began their first home international season of the new millennium, combining Test series against Zimbabwe and Pakistan with the first triangular one-day tournament in the Caribbean, in a state of uncertainty
West Indies began their first home international season of the new millennium, combining Test series against Zimbabwe and Pakistan with the first triangular one-day tournament in the Caribbean, in a state of uncertainty. Smarting from yet another overseas catastrophe - losing both Tests and all five one-day internationals in New Zealand - Brian Lara not only resigned as captain but, reportedly contemplating retirement, took a break from the game, leaving West Indies without their star batsman. Meanwhile, controversy surrounded the appointment of Roger Harper as coach, replacing Sir Viv Richards after just one assignment, the New Zealand tour. When the decision to sack Richards was announced in February, the outcry was most vehement in his native island of Antigua, which is also the headquarters of the West Indies Cricket Board. A large crowd marched through the streets with placards; a window was smashed and a gate vandalised at the Board's offices.
A month later, new captain Jimmy Adams joined his players and thousands of fans in a lap around Kingston's Sabina Park to acclaim hard-fought victories in both Tests of the inaugural series with Zimbabwe. The success was made sweeter by the fact that, a day earlier and in front of his Jamaican countrymen, 37-year-old Courtney Walsh had passed India's Kapil Dev as Test cricket's leading wicket-taker. But the ensuing euphoria could not mask the fact that West Indies had been outplayed by Zimbabwe for long periods.
In the First Test at Port-of-Spain, they were let off the hook when Zimbabwe's inexperience and lack of confidence, combined with their own disciplined fast bowling and fielding, saw them home: Zimbabwe collapsed for 63 in pursuit of a mere 99. "We simply did not seem to have that belief in our ability to win," said coach David Houghton. "We led for four days and about one session."
Once more, the bowlers had had to pull West Indies from a perilous position. Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, team-mates since 1988 and creators of several West Indian escapes to victory over the past decade, were again to the forefront. But their back-up also proved up to the task, with Reon King and Franklyn Rose enhancing their reputations. King had already served notice as the stand-out bowler in New Zealand. The renaissance of Rose, named Man of the Series, was more heartening, however. His steady decline through injury and poor attitude had been halted, and he reaped nine wickets with consistent line, length and swing, none more crucial than his four for 19 as Zimbabwe slid to defeat at Port-of-Spain. Just as encouraging was Rose's batting. Its continuing development and maturity were manifested in his maiden half-century during the stand with Adams that proved to be the turning-point of the Second Test.
Adams clearly thrived in his unsolicited role as leader, scoring his first Test century for four years. The management team he formed with Ricky Skerritt, a St Kitts businessman who had succeeded Clive Lloyd as manager, Harper, assistant coach Jeffrey Dujon, physio/trainer Ronald Rogers and performance consultant Dr Rudi Webster united his side, as witnessed by their commitment on the field and comfortable interaction with fans off it.
Zimbabwe, their focus distracted by violence and political unrest back home, had a disappointing first visit to the Caribbean. They played much good cricket, yet did not manage a single win. Their captain, Andy Flower, was the series' leading run-scorer, with 194 at 64.66, and his determined hundred in the low-scoring First Test - when no one else reached 50 - should have put him on the winning team. At Kingston, in the Second Test, he added 176 with Murray Goodwin, who showed his class with a century of his own, and pushed his team to a satisfying first-innings total of 308. But Zimbabwe, like West Indies, lacked batting consistency; none of their other batsmen contributed a Test fifty. One of the biggest disappointments was former captain AlistairCampbell, whose tour started with two unbeaten centuries in the opening first-class matches. Test failures saw his form and confidence dip to such an extent that he was dropped during the triangular series, in which Zimbabwe lost all four games.