No excuse for Windies negativity Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
February 3, 2002

The indignity perpetuated on the West Indies cricket public by the regional team's abject performances over the years have left us all in a permanent state of turmoil. The hurt has been profound for supporters and one can only imagine the magnitude of pain regularly experienced by the past players who helped build the great West Indies teams of the past. With a record of 21 losses from their last 25 overseas matches West Indies have compiled the worst probable `road' record of all the established Test playing nations currently. This statistic must have had a profound effect on the thinking of the technical personnel handling the squad in the current series in Sharjah.

From all indications, the powers that be have adopted an inexplicable negative approach to the series, where the impression is given that they cannot defeat Pakistan, if not in the series, in this first Test, and will play for a draw to avoid losing at all cost. In selecting a starting 11 of eight specialist batsmen and only three bowlers for the current first Test, it is clear that West Indies intend to bat themselves to safety, at the expense of playing a balanced side to win. Clive Lloyd, the man who revolutionised West Indies cricket teams of the 1970s and 80s into the potent attacking strike force spearheaded by the legendary four-pronged pace bowling, which eventually ruled the world for 15 years, must be brimming with revulsion, from his seat in Sharjah stadium, at this gutless change of approach. In this case there are no tearaway fast bowlers in the squad, but an improving specialist spinner Dinanath Ramnarine who proved a match winner in the South African series last year, but who was omitted, for the additional batsman for a Test on a spinners' wicket.

No excuse in the world could justify this sorry state of affairs, not even if the team is severely weakened by injury to world number one ranked batsman Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan, West Indies' two best scorers from the last series in Sri Lanka. Weak batting has been mainly responsible for the string of recent losses, but the impression must never be given that West Indies cannot live without Lara, by packing the team with batsmen in his absence. We have all been traumatised by the 3-0 clean sweep inflicted by Sri Lanka in November/ December, but it must be recognised that the bowling was equally culpable as the batting, for that humiliation.

The records will show that West Indies dismissed Sri Lanka only once in the three matches which proved that bowling is just as important as the batting to avoid defeat. The men in charge obviously are of the view that Pakistan is a stronger opponent than Sri Lanka. No one can dispute they have developed a high reputation over the years because of the numbers of talented players they produce, but that aura of invincibility must not be credited to Pakistan, to reduce West Indies to lowly desperate measures, as their opponent's record suggests otherwise. Pakistan has an enviable record of inconsistency where their teams more often than not, do not produce the results their potential suggests.

It is one reason why they cannot be mentioned in the same breath as Australia and South Africa, regarded as the world's two best sides. In fact the latest International Cricket Council rankings have them listed below West Indies in the pecking order, a fact which the West Indies team management does not seem to accept. Two other significant factors have obviously been ignored. For this series Pakistan are without their most successful bowler ever in Wasim Akram, who like Lara has been sidelined by injury, and most importantly, they were beaten by West Indies, the last time the two teams met in a test series, less than two seasons ago.

Thus there was no reason for West Indies to get cold feet and shame the region with an embarrassing display of self-doubt. We have a team of professional players who should always take the field with a winning mentality. Confidence must be placed in our young batsmen who would have learnt from their experiences in Sri Lanka and the previous competition in Zimbabwe and against South Africa. This Sharjah series might only be a two-match Test series, the importance of which has been diluted by the shift to a neutral venue and played before empty stands in a country where one-day competition is the lone form of cricket played. But it still remains the highest level of the sport and is part of the International Cricket Council's new rankings competition. Additionally West Indies have a proud reputation to protect every time they take the field, thus winning must always be their primary objective. It is one reason the regional team is always regarded as one of the most popular in world cricket which is why Carl Hooper and his tour management team should understand that they will gain no laurels for a negative approach.