Thursday, 17 May, 2007

Prayer on the lips for West Indies

West Indies take on England in the first test at Lords starting today and Paul Collingwood has urged his teammates to respect, not underestimate their opponents.

For some Rip Van Winkle waking after 20 years of deep slumber, Collingwood’s words would come as a big shock, or a bad joke, for the WI team of late 70s and 80s instantly commanded respect and inspired awe, from its fans and opponents alike.

But things change and how!

It’s not difficult to put a finger on the exact year when WI domination began, a majority consensus would point to 1976 ‘Grovel’ series against England.

In my books though, the seeds of WI dominance were sown about a year and a half before that. On a six test tour to Australia, West Indies were mauled, and badly too, to one of their worst defeats in test cricket. The margin, 5-1 in favour of Australia, with the pace trio of Lillee, Thomson and Gilmour wrecking havoc with the West Indian batting.

And when Indians comfortably and successfully chased a world record score of 404 against the likes of Albert Padmore (off spinner) and Jumadeen (the left arm orthodox spinner) at Port of Spain the following year, it was too much of an ignominy for Clive Lloyd to bear. His captaincy already under threat, Lloyd virtually discarded the spin option in the very next test at Sabina ‘Bloodbath’ Park and went in with a four pronged pace attack that included Holding, Julien, Holder and Daniel. Needless to add, Indians wilted under the ‘bodyline’ tactics and lost the match and with it, the series.

It was at Sabina Park that the seeds of four pace attack started germinating.

There was no looking back for the West Indies from there on. Tony Greig’s miscalculated verbal tirade - that he intended to make the West Indies ‘grovel’ - only added fuel to the already raging fire. The rest ofcourse is history. Viv Richards ‘announced’ his arrival and Holding earned the sobriquet of ‘The Whispering Death’ from a certain Dickie Bird. West Indies team clicked like never before.

It was the beginning of more than a decade of Caribbean dominance, never seen in cricket before. A decade, during which it produced astonishing number of fast bowlers and equal number of talented stroke makers, who gave immense joy to millions of cricket fans around the world.

Unfortunately, all that is past. And the present, in mess. WI has now lost three consecutive series against England, an indication of how bad things have turned for them.

As WI cricket gets ready for life after Brian Charles Lara, the players could do well to turn the pages of history and look up to exploits of Clive Lloyd’s men against England.

I dearly hope WI cricket regains its lost glory. Cricket is a dull game without the Caribbean flair.


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