Windies moving forwards
August 3, 2001

Former West Indies fast bowler Colin Croft considers the pluses and minuses to come out of their tour to Zimbabwe.
It is a real pity that the rains came to spoil the final day's play of the second Test at the Harare Sports Club.

Would West Indies have coped with the pressure that would have been put on them by Zimbabwe as they tried to get the 306 needed in 90 overs to win the match?

Or would it have been Zimbabwe's day again at the HSC, where four of their six Test wins have come?

We shall never know.

As in the first Test, Neil McGarrell and Colin Stuart were the pick of the West Indies attack.

McGarrell should be selected at all times from now on. Not only is he a very good lower order batsman, but his orthodox left-arm spin bowling can be adjusted for aggression or defence, as a game progresses.

Stuart has come out of this series as the best West Indies fast bowler. It is on pitches such as those in Zimbabwe or Pakistan, which do not normally give help to the quicks, that tryers such as Stuart, who have determination, courage and a never-give-up attitude, are made.

If he had the natural ability of Reon King, he would be even more special. As it is, though, he is more than good enough to hold his own.

King was a true disappointment. He bowled reasonably well in the first Test, but deteriorated terribly in the second, either through lack of fitness or lack of desire.

His fielding is absolutely the worst that I have ever seen at Test level.

The days of anyone being on the field of play just for a specific discipline are gone. If King doesn't pull his socks up soon, he too will be discarded as Nixon McLean was recently.

West Indies would have plenty of fast bowlers to choose from at the moment - if only they could all stay fit.

Being fit is a part of being good at what one does in professional sport, and Cameron Cuffy seems injury prone, while Mervyn Dillon has also been unfortunate.

Pedro Collins and Marlon Black were never fit enough after being sent to Zimbabwe as replacements.

I blame the West Indies Cricket Board for their lack of proper preparation but players must always be ready to perform, even when when called upon in emergency.

As far as the West Indies batsmen are concerned, opener Chris Gayle was a revelation.

His footwork became more assured as the tour progressed, and his Man of the Series award was a reward for hard work combined with ability.

Darren Ganga also advanced with a positive attitude. At least now, the West Indies should have a regular opening pair, but they will face bigger tests on bouncier pitches and better bowling attacks.

Marlon Samuels and Ramnaresh Sarwan also showed glimpses of things to come, enthralling everyone with their grace, touch, class and ease of play.

Sarwan becomes nervous, however, when big scores are there for the taking and has now got out twice near to a century. If he is going to become a great batsman, he must overcome that.

Samuels, by contrast, is perhaps too cool. He must be more aggressive in his posture, or he too will end up being only good, when the potential is there for being really great.

Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had the know-how to show the way to the younger batsmen, while Hooper had the added responsibility of being captain, and handled it well, as he did against the South Africans.

Like Clive Lloyd in the 70's and early 80's, Hooper has a great opportunity to mould a team almostin his own image.

He is at least a cricket generation older than most of his team - Sarwan, for one, addresses him as "Mr. Hooper", more from deference for his age, I think, than the respect, which is also there.

It augurs well for the future of the West Indies f they can keep the core of this team together, six batsmen. McGarrell, a hustler like Stuart, and wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs, although he will need to be replaced soon enough.

Then, the rest can circle the wagons around them. But the raw material for great things is present.

Only time will tell whether they will develop into a consistently competitive side or self-destruct.

I am betting on the former. Slowly, the cricket world will take notice.