Approach Sir Gary, WICB Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
December 2, 2001

If there ever was any doubt about the readiness of the West Indies cricket team to begin the climb back up the world ladder, the team's experiences in Sri Lanka have proved the pessimists 100 percent correct.

The manner of their humiliation in losing the current Test series suggests that the results in Zimbabwe were a grave deception.

Even though it is known as night follows day that Zimbabwe is one of the weakest teams in international competition, no one would have expected Sri Lanka's trouncing of West Indies would have been as clinical as that dished out by Muttiah Muralitharan and company. By losing the first Test by 10 wickets, the second by more than 200 runs and wasting a very formidable first day position that leaves them now requiring something close to a miracle to save the third game, West Indies has proved that nothing much has changed since the losing streak began in 1997 thanks to Pakistan's 3-0 triumph.

Most significantly, as the western media so fondly likes to describe it, the team is now more than ever, the Brian Lara one-man squad.

Not even the great batsman's feats this time around could have saved West Indies from a series loss, considering he almost won one against Australia two years ago.

Our batsmen, Lara apart, have shamed us once again and it has reached a stage where the bowling attack is as big a liability.

In only managing to bowl out Sri Lanka in one innings in two and a half Tests, conceding 1505 runs in the process up to the third day of the third Test, West Indies are now beginning to feel the impact of the loss of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

The now retired fast bowlers, two of the best ever produced in the region, had literally carried the bowling attack on their broad shoulders and now the weight now has become so burdensome, the Sri Lanka batsman, whose likes our past pacemen have made into fodder, are beginning to look like superstars.

It is very rare for West Indies to score more than 400 runs and capitulate to lose a Test match as was the case in Galle, such is weakness of current bowling attack. And the fact that Lara has scored 528 runs while none of the others have topped 200 in five innings apart from Ramnaresh Sarwan's 242, is indicative of the allround weakness of this present squad.

Sri Lanka have proven to be a formidable team at home and may have beaten Australia at home in 1999 and drew with South Africa last year, but their recent accomplishments are nowhere near those two countries which reflect the magnitude of work required for West Indies to become world beaters again.

Apart from Lara and captain Carl Hooper none of the other players can be classified as considerably experienced.

And even before encountering the wizardry of Muralitharan's spin, the young batsmen have shown varying levels of deficiencies in technique.

Thus the team is at a stage now where the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) will be forced to explore all avenues available for a solution.

West Indies have produced dozens of past batting greats and it is significant to note that Lara has credited the greatest of them all in helping him recapture his blazing form.

It was just one bit of advice Lara said he accepted from Sir Garfield Sobers, and in the blink of an eye he is again being talked about as the best batsman in the world as opposed to being described as spent force, before this Sri Lanka tour.

Many stories abound in the region of Sir Gary's great cricket brain but it is a great paradox he has never been actively involved in the development of our players.

Even if it means flying Sir Gary around the world to analyse and correct our current and aspiring Tests players wherever they play, the WICB must consider this option as it seems we have none better at this time to reverse the team's decline.

Our current crop of fast bowlers are a disaster compared to the four pronged attack and those afterwards, whose rapid development took that specialty to unprecedented high levels in the 1980s. Today we have pacemen who struggle to maintain consistent accuracy and who don't work hard enough to master the art of swinging the ball.

Many players should learn from the experience of Sri Lankan Chaminda Vaas who persevered for a year to learn reverse swing which he is now using to destroy West Indies. Being the best allrounder ever, Sir Gary is best equipped to advise our players in all aspects of batting and bowling. The least the WICB could do now is make a formal approach for his help.