Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Tony Becca: The Australian inspiration

Published:Sunday | May 1, 2016 | 5:16 AM
West Indies' Dwayne Bravo
West Indies'’ Chris Gayle
Australia's Mitchell Starc
Australia's Steve Smith
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Some people may now be questioning the reason for this headline, The Australian inspiration.

After all, the West Indies did go from 1976 to 1995 losing only one Test series against all comers, they defeated Australia mercilessly in seven series from 1980 to 1993 and during all those years there skill was such that they were considered the greatest set of cricketers ever to play the game.

Maybe the headline reflected the 4-1 defeat in 1951-52 when Australia first played the West Indies, or maybe it brought back memories of the 3-0 thrashing they dished out in 1955 when they first toured the West Indies.

No, it could not have been. Those defeats, and others, were well and truly avenged during the 19 years of ascendancy and the many thumpings that Australia received from the West Indies during that time, even though those victories are nearly as far away and as long ago as the wonderful and historic 3-1 victory against England in 1950.

The headline is for another reason.

Back in those days, cricket was popular among the six or seven countries which really played the game, and Test cricket was what other cricket was judged by.

Whenever stumps were driven into the ground and two men in white walked out of the pavilion, it was the signal for the people to turn out in their thousands, or for rain to come tumbling down.

People loved the sport, and they used to revel in who wins and the successful performers were the toast of the day, as they are today.

In that atmosphere, with everybody, toddlers to grandparents, probably even to great grandparents, involved in the game, England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, the West Indies, India, and Pakistan were happy.

They won series and they lost series. They produced good players.

 

Young players

 

Everybody was playing, young and old. They played in the backyard and in the front yard. They were seen on television enjoying the Test matches, and by playing everywhere and anywhere, and by playing every day and everywhere, the young players were in a position to replace the stars whenever their time came to step aside.

They had the numbers. That was how it was in those days.

While it is basically the same in the other countries, it is no longer so in the West Indies, and certainly not so in Jamaica where a cricket match, almost any cricket match, is like a ghost town.

Today, the team, the West Indies team, still wins a few matches, but they are few and far between, and mostly against teams as low as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. And they are gradually catching up with the West Indies.

Their performers are few and far between, and with one like Chris Gayle and probably another like Dwayne Bravo not involved, the relatively good performers are Darren Bravo, Kirk Brathwaite, and Marlon Samuels, and they are so only now and again.

The reason is that those who are equipped to take the places of the stars are not around, or by playing only now and again, they take too long in getting there.

It is difficult these days to spot, not only another Brian Lara or another Curtly Ambrose, another Shivnarine Chanderpaul or another Courtney Walsh, but also a player who really looks like for one for the future

England, Australia, South Africa, and especially India turn these type of players out almost every season. They flow like off a production line, Alistair Cook, Ian Bell, Steve Hamison, Joe Root, Jos Butler, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Steven Finn, Michael Clarke, David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steve Finch, Michael Johnson, and Mitchell Starc, Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, Hashim Amla, Quinton De Kock, Faf Duplessis, A.B. De Villiers, Makhaya Ntini, and Dale Steyn.

And from India, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinka Rajane, Rohit Sharma, R. Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Suresh Raina, and many more.

It is almost like you hear about them today and by tomorrow they are gone, and not because they are not that good enough, but because a better one appears on the scene.

One of the reasons why England, Australia, South Africa, and India keep producing more and better players more often than the West Indies is because their cricket fraternity really loves cricket.

 

Competitively

 

Based on what I have seen they go to cricket from they are young until they are old, and during that time, they play cricket, in the backyard, in the front-yard, and even competitively until after their 75th birthday.

The Australians, who were in Jamaica two weeks ago courtesy of Paul Campbell's Sports Innovation Group, played four 20-over games against a Kingston CC Masters Invitational X1, a Melbourne CC Masters Invitational X1, and two games against a Paul Campbell Masters Invitational X1, were from Victoria.

They came to Jamaica from Mexico and Cuba, and they were heading to Vancouver in Canada before going on to Philadelphia in the USA for a seven-match series in five days to end the tour.

The Philadelphia series has been going on for the past 20 years.

The reason for the headline is this: the tour was an eye-opener for the Jamaicans, certainly to regulars like former Jamaica nationals Delroy Morgan, John Gordon, Terrence Corke, and Odelmo Peters and to regular master league players like Mark English and Myron Chin.

The local players were, however, nowhere near 60 or 75 years old, and while there were maybe a few of them, who may play five or six games a season, the Australians number thousands, who play a minimum of 15 competitive games a season.

It is because of that why the Jamaicans were astonished by these older Australians, who, while were attired in the green and gold of Australia, ran sprightly and smartly between the wickets, something which is almost foreign to West Indies cricket these days.

"Boy, these guys certainly taught us a lesson. Imagine, 70 and 75 yeas old and still playing, and playing two games a day on top of that," said one of the Jamaicans who was just pushing his 50th birthday.

That's what made cricketers like Clarke and Smith, and also others like Johnson, Starc, and company.

"These guys really love cricket, man. We really have to take a leaf out of their book if we are to match them," said one of the Jamaicans who required a substitute fielder half way through the match at Melbourne Oval.

If the West Indies played cricket like the Aussies, they probably would not have suffered so badly for so long: 1995 to 2016 at the bottom, or near to the bottom, of the Test and One-day rankings.