AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
LONDON: It is a measure of how much things have changed since the West Indies’ glory days that the overwhelming feeling amongst home cricket fans ahead of their tour of England is sympathy.
From the mid 1970s through the 1980s the West Indies dominated world cricket with as fearsome a battery of fast bowlers as the game has known and dynamic, hard-hitting batsmen. They seemed to reserve their most pulverising displays for England, the old colonial power.
Yet the English crowds, while they feared for the safety of their own batsmen and the figures of their bowlers, had no trouble relishing the exuberant skill of the West Indies. Fast forward a generation, and this seems scarcely credible: the West Indies arrive in England having won just two out of last 30 Tests.
For what was once a world-beating side to be reduced to a three-Test series, mostly in May, ahead of world No 1 England’s showpiece encounter with South Africa is undeniably sad. Whether it is a lack of planning, inconsistent selection and questionable administration, many of the West Indies’ wounds are self-inflicted.
But certain developments in world cricket have been unkind to their cause. For example the cash-rich IPL cuts across their domestic season. And that offers players a financial lifeline if, they are in dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board.
And that of course is just what happened with the hard-hitting opener, former captain Chris Gayle. But the Windies have missed Gayle’s runs during an international exile of more than a year. It does appear though that he will be available, after completing his IPL duties, for the ODI’s against England.
Against this backdrop the tourists have arrived in cold, wet England, where the seam-bowler friendly conditions could suit the likes of West Indies quick Kemar Roach. “I am quite confident our guys can put the English batsmen under pressure,” said West Indies captain Darren Sammy.
But do the West Indies have the batsmen to counter the conditions in which they expect their bowlers to thrive? Certainly, in the experienced left-hander Shivnarine Chanderpaul, now officially ranked the world’s best batsmen, they have a cricketer for whom the adjective ‘gritty’ was invented. Here is a man so experienced in salvage missions it is little wonder he hasn’t been asked to raise the Titanic.