THERE ARE a number of West Indians who believe that the West Indies do not have a ghost of a chance of defeating Australia in the coming three-match Test series Down Under, and they may well be right.
According to them, Australia, despite losing the Ashes series, are still strong while the West Indies are still weak and it will be easy pickings for the home team.
There are those, however, who believe otherwise - those who believe that Australia have started to lose it, that they are not as strong as they used to be, and that although the West Indies are not as strong as they would like them to be, they can give Australia a run for their money and, with a little luck, win the series.
According to them, the ageing Australians are not as sharp as they used to be. Ace fast bowler Glenn McGrath is running out of steam and may not be able to bowl long spells, and although master spinner Shane Warne is just as good as he has always been, he has never really dominated the batsmen of the West Indies. If the batsmen of the West Indies get going and post some good totals, the batsmen of Australia could be under pressure - just as they were in England.
While they may be looking through rose-tinted glasses or may simply be optimists, those who give the West Indies a chance of winning the series believe that with all the disappointments of the recent past, a batting line-up that includes Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan is good enough to come good and are hoping that they will do so.
In order to win, however, the West Indies will have to do more than bat well. They will also have to bowl well and while Lara and company provide some hope that with a little luck the West Indies batting could handle Australia's bowling, the West Indies bowlers offer no such hope - certainly not to those who believe that the West Indies' chance of winning is only as good as that of a snowball surviving in Hell.
There are many, however, including those who do not give the West Indies a chance, who believe that the West Indies problem in recent years has not been a lack of talent in either batting or bowling but rather the inability to develop that talent.
According to them, the players have no discipline, because of that they do not train and practise as much as they should, because of that they are unfit, because of that they have not been able to concentrate for long, because of that their batsmen get out too often to careless strokes, because of that their bowlers lack consistency and fade away as the day goes by, because of that the team spirit is always poor, and if that is true, if that is really why the West Indies have been performing so poorly, then based on what is coming out of the camp in Barbados things are looking good for the West Indies in Australia.
FIT PLAYERS ONLY
In defending the need for the camp recently, coach Bennett King said only fit and committed players would be selected for the series in Australia and that the camp was necessary for two reasons.
The first reason was to find out who were fit enough to represent the West Indies, and after the many reports of the poor relationship between the players who went to Sri Lanka and those who did not, of the many quarrels between the A team players who represented the West Indies and those who refused to do so, the second reason was to find out if the players could live together and play together as a team.
THINGS GOING WELL
The reports out of Barbados, the words flowing from the mouths of King and manager Tony Howard, who both believe that the West Indies are better than their recent record suggests, are that things are going well - that although they are not yet where they would like them to be, the players are fitter than they have ever been and that the team spirit is good.
That may not be good enough to defeat Australia but it may be good enough to put some fight into the West Indies batsmen, to ensure that as it was in Sri Lanka, they will be good and probably brilliant in the field, that, as they were in Sri Lanka, their bowlers will be reasonably consistent, and although the odds will still be against them, if that all happens, win, lose, or draw, it could be interesting - really interesting.