World cricket’s original entertainers now find themselves in ‘minnows’ territory
The West Indians, self-admittedly, have had a poor start to the series. The team was bowled out on the opening day.
But the bowlers, off-spinner Shane Shillingford in particular, sprung a surprise and strangled the much vaunted Indian batting line-up to leave the home team gasping. For a brief moment, it bore a remote resemblance to the West Indies of yore.
But India managed a recovery, and sent the opposition hurtling towards defeat. This is the West Indies of the present.
West Indians were once great crowd pullers. They were cricket’s original entertainers, led by superstars like Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Roy Fredricks, Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharan, Viv Richards and later Brian Lara, to name a few.
The appeal was universal, and the West Indies scaled new heights, at home and overseas.
The fast bowlers were genuinely fast. Quicks like Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall excelled even on placid tracks because they were quick through the air. Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Curtly Ambrose, Patrick Patterson and Ian Bishop could rattle the batsmen with disconcerting pace and bounce.
And then, West Indies hit a slump, gradually losing its sheen, and eventually losing reputation as a world beater. Some would go as far as to say that the side, over the course of time, was reduced to being international cricket’s favourite whipping boys.
The current team, led by Darren Sammy, came in for scathing criticism, and rightly too, for succumbing inside three days at Kolkata. It was not the defeat so much as the abject capitulation that stood out sorely.
The West Indies had arrived in India with three series victories against New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Was it to be seen as the resurrection of the great team that it once was?
The first day’s performance hurt. The batsmen had shown indiscipline. The ball was now, literally, in the hands of the bowlers. They did their part — almost.
With India reeling at 83 for five, it seemed like a throwback to the golden days. Few teams would have escaped that noose but India found a new batting hero in Rohit Sharma, and a bowling all-rounder in R. Ashwin.
Sammy and his men were left licking their wounds, even as India extended its first innings lead to 219 runs.
Then, the batsmen once again let the team down, and in a manner worse than on the first day.
Lara, on a visit to India, was unsparing in his criticism, blaming the selectors. But Sammy, as expected, stood by his players. This certainly was not the best West Indian team to visit India, but it was not the worst either, he sanguinely observed.
The burden of even living up to — let alone carrying forward — the glorious legacy left behind by Frank Worrell, Sobers, Lloyd and Richards seems to weigh heavily on the new generation of cricketers from the Caribbean.
Lack of talent and discipline meant the West Indians had fallen on bad days.
The World Twenty20 crown last year brought huge cheer and support for the West Indians. It was a development considered important for world cricket.
The game’s faithful fans would love to relive those nostalgic moments when a victory against the West Indies had merit and added substance to a team’s reputation.
Regardless of the farcical cricket the team played at Kolkata, the West Indians are expected to shore up their crumbling cricket structure.
A feisty show at the Wankhede could be an ideal tribute from the West Indies to Sachin Tendulkar in his farewell Test.