Windies served another whitewash

by Don Cameron in Christchruch
Stabroek News
January 12, 2000

The touring West Indian cricketers made a gallant attempt to win the last match of their tour of New Zealand before 15,000 spectators at Jade Stadium yesterday, but instead completed their 0-5 defeat in the one-day Internationals and signed off their expedition as the "if only" tour.

The super-confident New Zealanders were led to their 50-over total of 302 for six wickets by a 170-run third-wicket stand from Roger Twose (97) and Nathan Astle (85), and if only West Indies had played with a little more care they might have done better than scoring 282 when Courtney Walsh fell to the second-to-last ball of the 50th over.

So the tour finished as the International matches started -- New Zealand a more thorough team in terms of scoring runs and taking wickets and generally organising their cricket like polished professionals; West Indies building their tactics on too-varied selections, wrong tactical directions and, in the end, a comparable overall lack of experience and skill.

If only the West Indies had not thought the first Test was already won when they scored 282 for one on the first day. If only Brian Lara had been bold enough to bat first on an uncertain pitch, on which New Zealand lived in luxury and won the second Test with a day and an innings to spare.

If only West Indies had a better appreciation of their players' one-day potentials. The evidence was plain that Reon King and Courtney Walsh should have been the essential new-ball bowlers, that Ricardo Powell's brilliance would only shine in a properly prepared innings, that Lara was several times guilty of casting away his wicket, and that Adrian Griffith's form in the fifth one-dayer yesterday made one wonder why he had been left on the batting shelf for so long.

Rather too many of these "if onlys" came home to roost tonight, and especially the fact that if the top half of the West Indian batting list had been well organised they might well have climbed the mountain and beaten New Zealand, rather than fall 22 runs short in what became only a gallant failure.

Again the New Zealand batting seemed the better organised, and showed the West Indians how best to take advantage of a fast outfield and a hard, true pitch which was heavily in favour of the batsman.

New Zealand did manage to lose Craig Spearman very quickly and when Stephen Fleming was caught from an untidy drive at Nehemiah Perry (in a brief early appearance) the New Zealanders might have been excused if they rebuilt their defensive position.

Instead, Twose immediately played his attacking strokes, Astle became his lieutenant and for the next 27 overs the two New Zealand batsman mixed their batting skilfully, with strong attacking strokes and with canny ones and twos.

Lara had a problem when Mervyn Dillon went lame and limped through his ten overs, but then got his bowling tactics mixed when he did not use King -- day in day out - West Indies most effective bowler on tour -- until halfway through the innings.

Twose went at 205 for three, 97 runs from 90 balls, 11 fours and two sixes, and the spare-time slow bowler Sherwin Campbell had Astle superbly caught by Lara at 217 for four, after Astle had scored 95 from 109 balls, eight fours and a six.

Nimble batting by Chris Harris, Chris Cairns and Craig McMillan got New Zealand past the 300-mark.

West Indies started badly, Ridley Jacobs hitting Cairns' first ball for four, and sent his second to a fumbled catch by Twose. Griffith and Shivnarine Chanderpaul batted sturdily, but Lara should have been batting at No 3. The pitch was easy, Dion Nash was not playing because of a back strain, Cairns was plainly unwell and managed only four overs, for 31 runs. The New Zealand bowling was ripe for plucking by a world class player of Lara's stature.

Griffith and Chanderpaul did maul the early New Zealand bowling, but Lara should have been in eight overs before he did arrive at 58 for two wickets. He and Griffith maintained the attack, past 100 in the 15th over.

Now the game was in the balance, as New Zealand fell back on the semi-defensive bowling of Harris and Daniel Vettori. But Lara and Griffith did not manage their attack expertly. At 102 Griffith hit a catch from Scott Styris down Spearman's throat at deep mid-wicket.

Lara ripped the field apart with some brilliant boundaries, including two to deep mid-wicket in one over from Harris. Not satisfied with that, Lara tried for another four in the same over from the same shot. Harris predictably bowled a little shorter, and the catch went straight to Twose at deep mid-on.

Adams and Campbell then dug in. They did not hit any fours, and seemed only capable of getting ones and twos. But they scored steadily, and safely -- just the kind of cool-headed tactics that the earlier batsmen might have used.

Just when Adams and Campbell were picking up the scoring Harris struck two critical blows -- having Adams caught at 164 in his last over, and then hitting the stumps from side-on to run out Powell.

This was the beginning of the end for West Indies, at 167 for six in the 31st over. Perry and Campbell soldiered along stoically, but West Indies lacked a boundary-hitter in the Powell mould.

So the New Zealanders gradually tightened the screws, and it became obvious that West Indies did not have the lower-order batting firepower to chase a target rate that soared up to nine and then ten runs an over.

Campbell was finally winkled out at 261 for nine wickets, his 71 coming from 87 balls and, significantly, containing only two fours and a six.

There was a dramatic touch when Walsh put a flourish on his last innings in New Zealand by hitting a four and two magnificent straight sixes.

But by then the New Zealand victory was a certainty. The New Zealanders became the only other side to made a 5-0 clean sweep of a one-day series (West Indies are the other team, and they have done that four times), they gathered in their spoils and now await the chest-beating Australians in six one-dayers and three tests in February-April.

Lara said his team would learn from their experiences in New Zealand, and would put the lessons into practice against Zimbabwe and then Pakistan.

They could do a lot worse that play back films of their one-dayers and Tests in New Zealand. They made too many mistakes in selection, tactics and on-field play. But at least their problems were obvious, and so were the answers.


This embarrassment must end

Now that the pain is over, West Indians are left to reflect on the latest if not worst embarrassment perpetrated on this once justifiably proud cricketing nation by the current team in New Zealand.

If losing a Test series for the first time in 15 years, to Australia in 1995 was heart rending, being trashed by New Zealand via two whitewashes in Test and limited overs competitions, has sunk West Indies to the lowest level of despair in its 71-year history of international competition.

It is astounding to see a team decline at such frenetic pace from having the longest unbeaten record ever in Test competition, in a period when they were once the only Test playing nation to win two limited overs World Cup titles, to being whitewashed twice by a country which has never even threatened to being the best at anything at world level, within five years, must be a good bet for a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Amazingly the same weaknesses which started the team's downfall still exists all these years and which has even got worse.

West Indies batting, once the backbone of past teams has now become the biggest flaw, being mercilessly exploited by almost every opposing team presently.

Because the team has suffered just one of the five Test series defeats since the unbeaten streak was snapped, at home, says a lot for the players' inability to play in foreign conditions.

Our batting in West Indies conditions may be bad but it is horrendous in countries where the atmospheric and pitch conditions provide much more help for the bowlers compared to the placid Caribbean.

The difference in the winning teams of yore and the present ones lies in ability to adapt. The great majority of players under Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards were groomed in the English county championships where they learnt the techniques to handle the swinging ball on lively pitches.

The West Indies batsmen these days are reared on easy paced pitches with non existent atmospheric help for the bowlers. The net result is the emergence of a breed of batsmen with limited footwork who can afford to score runs in the region with feet planted in the crease.

Not one batsman in the current side has a county contract, and yet this most glaring deficiency, seemingly has not been identified by the West Indies Cricket Board which has not seen it fit all these years, to hire a batting coach for the team or, to work with the promising young uncapped players. We have had leg spin, off spin and even wicketkeeping clinics for players, but only one, the very last exercise staged, for batting.

It is thus not surprising to hear current coach Viv Richards lament like many before him, the poor quality of players appearing in West Indies colours.

In the absence of exposure to foreign conditions, due to the closed door policy of the England Test and County board to outsiders, the WICB should have ensured that our batsmen are taught and drilled in proper batting techniques.

This does not mean that our bowlers must be left out as many of the young pacers still do not seem to understand or appreciate the benefits of maintaining line and length.

Remedial measures are urgently needed as Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, the two most experienced active bowlers, with wide county experience are showing signs of inability to carry the team on their backs for much longer.

The Board's disregard however, for technical support is not restricted to coaching. In the last four competitions, West Indies have opposed world class opposition without a physiotherapist and its sports psychologist Dr Rudy Webster whose services should be vital for a young team on the build and subjected to the extreme pressures, unheard of in the days of non professional cricket.

As he rightly explained on CANA radio on Monday night, Webster said a player with the best skills cannot execute any, if he is mentally unprepared and West Indies have displayed this tendency in South Africa and in New Zealand.

The captaincy also has not helped the team's cause. Brian Lara's inability to grasp the most basic principles of on-field tactics has left him with one of the worst records of West Indies captains. This limitation is largely responsible for the difference between losing by 1-0 and 2-0 and 3-2 and 5-0 margins.

Between now and March when Zimbabwe tours the region, it does not leave supporters with much time to reflect and certainly most importantly, for the WICB to make some very crucial decisions.

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