Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Tony Becca: Wanted: something like a miracle

Published:Sunday | December 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM
West Indies head coach Phil Simmons (centre) gives his team a pep talk during a training session in Brisbane, Australia last week week.

The West Indies are in Australia, and although the Australians are blooding some new players themselves, the West Indies, beaten and battered since 1995, are struggling along and fighting against the odds on a return to their glory days.

Since that day in 1995 when they bowed to Australia, they have been beaten by almost everyone, except by Bangladesh and Zimbabwe; they have lost 5-0, they have failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy, and their awesome fast bowlers and their brilliant batsmen of earlier times are now, for want of a better term, firing blanks, most of them.

No country, not England and certainly not Australia, who once ruled the roost, took this long a time to return to the top, or close to it.

Just recently, the West Indies team toured Sri Lanka, and despite Sri Lanka losing the services of batsmen Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, and Tilikaratne Dilshan, as well as fast bowler Lasith Malinga, in spite of their confidence going in, they still failed to win a Test match for a 2-0, 3-0, and 1-1 result in Test matches, ODIs, and T20s.

With the scores showing Sri Lanka 484, West Indies 251 and 227 in the first Test; and Sri Lanka 200 and 206, West 163 and 171 in the second Test, the West Indies batting failed miserably in the Test matches.

And it wasn't any better in the ODIs where, in winning 3-0, Sri Lanka once scored 228 for two wickets while batting second.

The West Indies' only saving grace came in the T20 tournament which they drew 1-1 but suffered a heavy defeat when Sri Lanka ran up 215 for three batting first.

The West Indies are now in Australia, and despite losing 4-1 on their first tour in 1930-31, 4-1 in 1951-52, and 2-1 in the exciting series of 1960-61, 4-1 in 1968-69, and an embarrassing 5-1 in 1975-76 before the wonderful days of the 1980s and early 1990s, the future looks bleak.

In those early days, the West Indies boasted players of the quality of George Headley and Frank Martin, Learie Constantine, Herman Griffith, Tommy Scott, Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott, Gerry Gomez, Sonny Ramadhin, Alfred Valentine, Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Lance Gibbs, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Roy Fredericks, Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharran, Viv Richards, Andy Roberts, and Michael Holding.

 

AUSTRALIA REMAINED STRONG

 

While Australia have remained strong or nearly strong all the time, the West Indies have got weaker and weaker, to the point where they are now ranked only above Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

Whereas the West Indies once filled to capacity cricket grounds like Lord's and the Eden Gardens, Melbourne and Sydney, they are hardly likely to do so this time around; and whereas countries lined up to play the West Indies once upon a time, tours by the West Indies are run at a loss these days.

The West Indies, regardless of what they may think, are no longer the attraction they once were. Apart from the results of matches, their batsmen, their bowlers, and most of their fielders are no longer as exciting, as fast, as furious, as excellent, and as brilliant as they were once upon a time.

Once upon a time, particularly under Worrell, Sobers, Kanhai, Lloyd, and Richards, one was proud to be a West Indian, regardless of where in the world one found oneself.

It may not be so when it comes to skill, but when it comes to results and to performance, this West Indies team may well be the weakest of all West Indies teams going back to 1928 and the West Indies first Test match.

This team, the same team to a man which toured Sri Lanka, is going to Australia to take on Australia with their top batsmen, Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo, averaging 34.82 in 61 Test matches and 40.01 in 39 Test matches; and with their two top bowlers, possibly Jerome Taylor and Devendra Bishoo, averaging 32.99 in 43 matches and 38.35 in 15 matches.

Those figures pale in comparison to a team of good, promising young batsmen, a team with batsmen like David Warner and Steve Smith, one with 15 centuries, including two in one match on three occasions, from 44 matches, and one with 12 centuries, including four in one series, from 34 matches.

Fortunately for the West Indies, their batsmen in particular, Mitchell Johnson has just retired, and Mitchell Starc is injured. It is, however, also a team packed with really good fast bowlers in Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, and Peter Siddle, plus Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile.

It also boasts, in Nathan Lyon, a good, old fashioned off-spin bowler.

As a West Indian, I hope I am wrong, and I pray I am wrong. It seems, however, based on the look of both teams, and although the Australian batting seems top heavy, that this tour of Australia will be another disaster, probably worse than 1975 when a team including Gordon Greenidge, Roy Fredericks, Lawrence Rowe, Viv Richards, Alvin Kallicharran, Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts, and Michael Holding was massacred by Greg Chappell, Ian Chappell, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, and company.

It was, however, the start of something good. With a little luck, maybe with something like a miracle, the action, starting in Hobart on Wednesday, may be the beginning of something good.