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All Over Bar The Shouting West Indies Woes Continue In South Africa

By Orin Davidson
Bar the shouting, it should be all over for West Indies by now in their latest Test series in South Africa.

By press time the home team was well on its way to redeeming itself with a romping 2-1 series victory before the weekend is done.

Despite the early West Indies heroics, the eventual score will not reflect the wide margin of South Africa’s victory.

After three Tests the visiting team’s victory in the Port Elizabeth Test, is being seen for what it is, nothing more than a mirage that fleeting camouflaged the shortcomings of the former world champions that caused all their humiliation previously, especially playing at home and on the road against South Africa in the recent past.

Chris Gayle and his men lifted many a West Indian hope by outplaying Graeme Smith’s squad in the first Test to take a commanding lead in the best-of- three rubber, but as the dust settles it is painfully obvious that this team is only marginally better than the others that never previously won a Test match in South Africa.

It was back to the bad old ways and days in the two subsequent games, the extent of West Indies weakness being emphasized by the series being decided as early as the end of Day One of the deciding Test at Durban.

Incredible it may seem but true it is.

By being bowled out for a devastating low 139 first innings total it was obviously curtains for West Indies when South Africa rattled up a first innings lead, with nine wickets in hand long before close of play on Thursday.

Smith, is not a man to miss out on opportunities and he capitalized fully on the huge early advantage, leading by example with the bat.

With so much at stake for South Africa’s reputation and their ranking in Durban, the captain cracked his 13th Test ton and turned a must-win situation for the home team into an easy ride that was initiated when he won the toss.

Even if Shivnarine Chanderpaul took the opportunity in the second innings to beat his previous Test best 203 and continue an amazing scoring purple patch for West Indies, there is no stopping South Africa winning the Test handily, having all the time in the world to do so.

This was a mismatch despite how close 2-1 might seem. In the end it justified the disparity in the rankings between the world’s number two ranked South Africa and their number eight opponents.

The scores at Cape Town and in Durban clearly reflect such a conclusion.

True, the unfortunate absence of Chris Gayle was a factor at Durban as was his limited presence for most of the Cape Town encounter. Just like the loss of Dwayne Bravo’s bowling in the decisive game and Fidel Edwards’ absence for the entire second Test outside of 4.5 overs, but had West Indies’ luck been otherwise the final result would’ve been the same.

This Test series once again exposed most of the wrongs afflicting West Indies cricket.
Two or three players cannot win a series, they might win a game, but not take the entire cake.

Gayle’s inspirational captaincy, Chanderpaul’s batting nor Bravo’s bowling could never be enough.

West Indies unraveled coming down to the bottom simply because they were found wanting in too many areas.

Technically and in physical fitness they were weak and were no match for South Africa as they would be for all the other teams ranked above them in the world rankings.

The batting collapse nemesis was evident in all three Tests as were the infectiveness of the fast bowlers in different conditions.

Poor technique and limited temperament were the biggest flaws, again evident in the batsmen which saw them failing to post any score of substance after the first innings at Port Elizabeth.

This is why Test competition is the real indicator of a team’s ability and not any 50 overs or 20 overs slap dash affair.

It was bad enough seeing the frontline men, being made to look like novices by Dale Steyn Mahkaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock and Andre Nel due to footwork inability, but worse to hear Geoff Boycott describe their dismissals at his acerbic best on television.

To put it mildly this West Indies team needs traveling coaches for both its batting and bowling departments, not to mention one for fielding.

Darren Powell and Fidel Edwards, in particular cannot seem to bowl any other way than short whatever the conditions and while they did succeed to an extent in Port Elizabeth, they perished by persisting on the slower pitchers in the last two games.

These bowlers need help badly to right their technical problems as well their mental approach and physical fitness.

A full time bowling coach would help in a big way.

The fact that Bravo emerged as the best bowler was a vindication of his understanding of the importance of keeping the ball up to the batsman.

This is where the West Indies Cricket Board has to get off its high horse and do the right things to make this team better.

New President Julian Hunte has shown encouraging leadership ability in his short reign so far. His has almost single-handedly improved the Board’s relationship with the players while his objection to the treatment of umpire Steve Bucknor by the International Cricket Council (ICC) is a mark of a true leader.

Hunte seems to possess the fortitude to make decisions that the Board’s status quo have been either afraid or couldn’t care less to make in the past

All things considered the new president is proving that the game’s development is his number one priority, which could not be said of a great number of his colleagues on the Board.

Therefore he has to be the man to act on the need to have specialist coaches for the Test team.

The bowlers are talented but need help which Hunte should recognize by now among the other needs.

Micro managing is not considered the most tasteful style of running any outfit.

But if Julian Hunte has to roll up his sleeves for the good of West Indies cricket then so be it.

These are desperate times.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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