By Garfield Robinson
Those of us who thought the West Indies would have kept this series close or even gotten the better of Australia have been sorely disappointed. Not only did the visitors lose – they lost badly; 5-0 in fact, and the games, for the most part, weren’t even close. While it was mostly felt that Australia was the better team, many of us felt that the West Indies had the more incendiary players, capable of bringing the explosive, game-turning performance that would carry them to victory.
We hardly expected them to win by grit and teamwork. They are not really equipped for that; it is not their nature. It was the scintillating innings by power-hitters Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard or Andre Russell that would do it; or the hat trick by the wily Sunil Narine or the pacy Kemar Roach. Improbable? Maybe. But it was something to hang our hats on.
We should have known better. Hope is not a strategy. Teams are good because they are consistent, not because they totally annihilate opponents one day and then surrender like lambs the next. To say the West Indies needs to get better is to say the West Indies needs to be more dependable. To repose faith in only a few players is to court disappointment time and again. The good team will be the one that cultivates efficient regular performers in every department while still embracing the mercurial talent.
To use an extreme example: it is not for nothing that a side like South Africa is the best in the world. Dale Steyn may be one of the greatest pacers the game has seen, but the fact that he has Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel at the other end, bowlers who are seldom off their game, makes his job a lot easier. And while Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla are batsmen from the top drawer, Graham Smith, AB de Villiers and Alviro Peterson habitually make important contributions.
The problem with the Caribbean side is that there are hardly any players that can be regularly relied upon. As good as they are, players like Chris Gayle and Kemar Roach are only sporadic performers, and the supporting cast members are even more erratic. The injured Marlon Samuels has been our best batsman of late, and his absence was a huge blow, but he most reliable player available to the West Indies, however, is Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and it probably was a mistake for the selectors to have ignored him for this tour. Looking to the future is fine and understandable, but it isimportant to compete, and to prevent young players from developing a culture of mediocrity.
Perhaps as depressing as witnessing this clean-sweep for Caribbean fans is the fact that there was hardly anything redeeming coming out of the ODI games. One bright spot was Kieron Pollard’s skillfully constructed hundred in the fourth game. He went in at 17/3 during the eighth over with the memory of the 70 all-out debacle of Perth still fresh in the mind. Staying till the end, he fashioned the best innings of his career, facing 136 deliveries for his 109*. More batting like that and the selectors will have a hard time denying him a test spot.
Kieran Powell showed just enough to suggest he is still on the way to becoming a proficient opening batsman. Upright and elegant, he was troubled throughout by left arm swing, falling to Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson four out of five times, but he appears to have a wonderful temperament and seems willing to work hard for his runs.
Sunil Narine continues to be aneffective limited overs bowler. He has not been as effective in the test arena where batsmen are able to exercise more patience. And so one of his goals going forward should be to rectify that situation.
One major disappointment was the return of Ramnaresh Sarwan. His reentry was fraught with high expectations by fans who thought he was badly treated by the authorities. His accumulated time at the crease was much too brief for them to asses his true batting form, but it is clear that the swift left-arm swing of Starc was too much for him, and though he might not be scheduled to face anything of that sort in the near future, it is difficult to see him being retained.
One art perfected by the West Indies is that of flattering the opposition’s players by allowing them to look better than they actually are. Not that Australia is a bad team; their pace bowling is fantastic and they have reasonably good batting. But they recently had ODI tournaments against Pakistan, who they beat 2-1, England, who swept them 4-0, and Sri Lanka, who tied with them 2-2, and they didn’t look as unbeatable as they appeared to be against the West Indies. Zimbabwe will shortly arrive in the Caribbean for two tests, two T20 games and three ODIs. Will they be extended the same benevolence?