Rhetoric will not help West Indies by Colin Croft
Stabroek News
November 28, 2001

Now that they have already lost the series, the West Indies cricket team, going into the third and final Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo, on Thursday next, has serious problems, both historical and practical. Now they have to try to avoid another overseas "whitewash."

At best, their away record over the last decade or so is extremely poor. In 1994-5, 1-1 draw with India, beat New Zealand 1-0. Drew in England 1995, 2-2. In Australia 1996-97, lost 3-2, then lost 3-0 in Pakistan in 1997-8. A wicked beating, 5-0, followed in South Africa in 1998-99. In New Zealand at the turn of the century, it was 2-0. In Australia 2000-01, it was 5-0, another brutal beating. They lost 3-1 to England in 2000, while they beat Zimbabwe 1-0 last August. Now, they are 2-0 down with one to go. History is not on their side.

Both Carl Hooper and Roger Harper now seem to be falling into the same trap that allowed Jimmy Adams 's reign as captain to end rather abruptly. They seem to be finding similar excuses as opposed to finding solutions to the team's continued failure against other cricket teams. At one stage in Australia last year, one did not have to see Adams at a press-conference to know what he would have said. Even the Beatles could not have repeated the following phrase more: "We have to be more consistent than we have been." No-one even remotely related to the game would have argued with that. The question for Adams then was; "What the hell are you doing about it?"

That same question now needs to be asked of both Harper and Hooper. They both talk a great game, but the results keep being poor, and as a matter of fact, becoming poorer.

This is Hooper after the last Test debacle, when the team never even managed a second new ball in either innings, being destroyed for 191 and 190.

"It is simple. I do not think that we have been batting properly. We are always being put under pressure and once we go into the last day with someone like Muttiah Muralitheran in the opposition, then we will struggle. There is no over-night fix. This is not new, since we have been prone to collapses in the past. We have been up against a world-class bowler."

What an understatement! Worse, Hooper now implies that since it has been happening in the past, why should anyone worry now.

In the meantime, lowly India and even England managed to cope with the same Muralitheran at the same Kandy stadium. Is Hooper suggesting that India is now a better cricket team than the West Indies even though they are rated much lower?

Roger Harper is even worse.

"We have to bat better," says Harper, as if we did not know that. "We can talk a lot about the situation in the dressing rooms, but it is up to the batsmen to go out there and do the business. The batsmen have to be patient against Muralitheran, it is as simple as that."

The only problem with this is that while Harper says the right things, nothing like what he suggests comes from the batsmen. Is it that he is not getting through to them, and they are not listening to him? If that is true, then he should not be the coach. That is as simple as that too!

Harper continues: "I do not think that we have a lot of faults. We simply have to apply ourselves better (shades of Jimmy Adams). I am not a surgeon, so I cannot do any transplants. We can just keep working on the things that we see and keep trying when we get out there. Remember that we have a very inexperienced team."

The team, as a unit, may be inexperienced, but the individual players are sufficiently experienced to be more effective. Let us really look at their returns.

Darren Ganga will be playing his 13th Test match come tomorrow. He only has one half century to show for that; in other words, mediocrity. Marlon Samuels will play his 11th Test, with four 50's to show for them. Explained another way, potential could only take you so far. Chris Gayle will be playing his 14th Test. For that time, he has one century and one fifty to show. Ditto.

Ramnaresh Sarwan is probably the best of the young lot, as while he does not yet have a Test century, at least he is consistent, now with eight 50's.

These guys are just honeymooning, since they know that they will not be dropped. Those returns, overall, are highly unacceptable. Oh, by the way Merv Dillon is playing his 19th Test match, and now has only about 65 Test wickets. Ian Bishop, Andy Roberts and yours truly had 100 Test wickets in that time. You get the picture.

Even the only man who seems to want to bat well again, Brian Lara, seems somewhat fed-up. Twice already on this Sri Lankan tour he has lamented his team's ability to make the required runs. At the close of Day 1 of the first Test, with the West Indies 316-3, and Lara himself 117 not out, he said:

"If we make less than 500 we will have done badly, with this start. We must be looking for at least 550 to be safe." The West Indies made only 448 in that 1st innings, including Lara's 178, but, as he predicted, lost the game.

In the 2nd Test, after going to the crease with the West Indies 51-2, Sri Lanka having made 288 in their first innings, Lara was last man out for 74 out of 191, and was visibly angry at the end of the day:

"We have got to have more support than this if we are going to make any good score." (SIX of the West Indians had made no-score). "We simply cannot have the tail contributing nothing."

I sometimes wonder where the West Indies 'tailenders' actually start in the batting order!

Whatever now happens, both Harper and Hooper have got to start making things happen for this team. The rhetoric is not working, that is very obvious. The shadow that they have been hiding in is quickly dissipating!