The Caribbean tragedy
The pathetic display of the West Indies team at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai recently reflects the unfortunate downfall of the great Caribbean cricket. One can only hope it will regain its glory, as that will be a great day for all cricket lovers, writes ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA.
SIMPLY UNBEATABLE: Michael Holding took over the commentary box.
INDIA'S EASY victory over West Indies in the first Test in Mumbai once again highlighted the downfall that has occurred in the cricketing fortunes of the Caribbean players. A little more than a decade ago beating West Indies would have been considered an extremely difficult task. But the team that one sees nowadays is only a pale shadow of the side that was led by Clive Lloyd and which had in its ranks players of the calibre of Gordon Greenidge, Viv Richards, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and others.
The reasons for the dip in fortunes may be many but several years ago former fast bowler Wesley Hall who later became the manager of the squad had predicted the decline.
During an informal chat with this correspondent as far back as 1983 when West Indies was still at its peak, Wesley Hall had said that the day was not far off when West Indies would cease to be the unbeatable team it was in those days.
According to Hall, the reason lay in the fact that the talented and athletic youngsters from the islands were being attracted to sports other than cricket. The lure of big money, which lay in sports such as basketball and baseball was luring more and more of the youth away from cricket. Youngsters who had the right kind of height and physique to become good fast bowlers were more inclined to take to basketball and baseball and go to USA where there was a fortune to be made by professional basketball and baseball players.
TAKING STOCK: Clive Lloyd led a powerful team.
As a result cricket was gradually going into a decline and the region, which once used to produce quality fast bowlers in rapid succession, saw a drying up of talent and the team's invincible image started to falter.
The lacklustre display put up by the West Indies in recent times has been a big disappointment for its many fans in India. The dashing approach of West Indian cricketers had won many an Indian heart for probably no one likes and enjoys the sport more than the cricket fan from the Indian sub continent.
Players such as Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, and before them the three Ws namely Worrell, Weekes and Walcott have had a legion of admirers in India. Not only fans but many cricketers also admired the approach of the West Indies players. One of the best-known names in Hyderabad cricket, the late M.L. Jaisimha used to be an ardent admirer. Indeed his own style and panache seemed to be quite similar to that of some of the West Indian greats.
SULTAN OF SWING: Vivian Richards
But what one saw in the first Test in Mumbai recently was West Indies cricket at its nadir. The inability of the visitors to fight back, the lack of confidence and the spineless character of the batting especially when facing spin was an unpleasant surprise for those who still remembered the sublime skills of Sobers, Richards, Lloyd, Greenidge and others who could flay any attack in the world on any kind of pitch.
Of course in sport fortunes rise and fall. It has been so in the case of India, England and Australia. Over the years all these teams have had their ups and downs. But West Indies seems to be going through a long and steady descent. This is indeed sad for all cricket lovers for the Caribbean cricketers have given the game a flavour and character, which only they can provide.
Who can forget their feats? To take up just one case, Michael Holding who with Andy Roberts and Malcolm Marhsall destroyed batting line ups in the Seventies and Eighties, once bowled what was considered an "unplayable'' over to Geoff Boycott in 1981. Ball one reared up and Boycott barely managed to glove it away from his face, ball two missed his head by inches, ball three slammed into Boycott's thigh, ball four came off the pitch like lightning and the batsman managed to fend it off to gully, ball five whizzed past Boycott's ear and finally ball six uprooted the off stump and sent it flying to land at the wicketkeeper's feet.
If West Indies cricket manages to regain the level it once had, if it again produces players with that fantastic range of talent and if the team as a whole can once again produce the fireworks that enthralled the spectators for decades, then the gain will not only be for West Indies but also for cricket as a whole. Meanwhile the true cricket lover can only wait and hope.
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