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Real Test Awaits Windies
……..When Aussies Come Calling

By Orin Davidson
May 10th, 2008
Like Christmas, Carnival and Reggae Sun splash, overnight expectation within the West Indies cricket fraternity will happen no matter what.

This time it is influenced by two single test match wins in back to back series, which despite not resulting in series victories against South Africa and Sri Lanka, ended a long drought of success against higher ranked teams for the Regional side.

South Africa rebounded to cart off the three match rubber 2-1 and Sri Lanka were already one Test win ahead when West Indies came back to level the two Test encounter in Trinidad in April.

But those two wins so lifted the spirits, the fraternity began feeling optimistic West Indies could advance one step further this time by going all the way and beating Australia, or at a minimum prevent the world champions from winning more games than them in the three games to be played starting in two weeks.

Unfortunately though, it could not be anything more than wishful thinking.

Every time the Regional team shows some spark, they are touted ready to reclaim their place at the top of the world, like the West Indies of the 1970’s and 80’s so magnificently did.

Maybe it’s the fans’ passion for the game or their vulnerability to the flashback syndrome, West Indians more often than not get carried away in a sea of false security even though their team has been a letdown in almost every case since 1995.

This West Indies squad is not much different from the one that Brian Lara led, which withered like New York’s plant life in October, in the home stretch after good starts, especially in the latter years of his tenure.

The real champions in sport know how to finish strong and West Indies post-1995 has neither shown the physical and mental qualities that separates the good from the average and downright poor teams.

Chris Gayle definitely is getting more motivation from the charges than Lara did and the bowlers are more matured than they were 16 months ago. But the chasm in fitness that separates this team from the 80’s and 90’s sides is still wide enough to prevent Australia triumphing, even in a shortened three-Test rubber.

Seven years ago Ramnaresh Sarwan discovered how much fitness contributed to Australia’s raging success in the contemporary game when he undertook a training course at that country’s academy.

That principle still obtains which among other things explains why the Aussies are in camp three weeks before the tour, even if they are taking on a team ranked in the cellar of Test competition.

It is impossible for the culture of indifference to hard physical training manifested under the Lara regime at the helm, to change overnight.

The fast bowlers who are supposed to be the hardest workers of any team, and upon whom the West Indies selectors have made the front, back and center of the attacks since the four- prong days, have failed to set up victories mainly because they lack the stamina to get the job done.

The short stints in the English counties which Jerome Taylor and Darren Powell enjoyed last year, needed follow up contracts for them to fully appreciate their responsibilities to fitness.

West Indies will be back with those two leading the attack along with Fidel Edwards but you can bet your last penny that by the time the third and final Test reaches its middle stages in Barbados, they would be incapable of delivering the goods they would’ve shown in the Jamaica first Test.

Claiming 20 wickets in a Test is an arduous task, but against Australia it is doubly demanding even without Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer.

And you know why West Indies batsmen have not been putting together success more than one series at a time with the exception of Shiv Chanderpaul?
Well, it is for the same reason the bowlers have been going for 500 runs an innings as frequently as Ricky Ponting have been knocking off centuries.

Fitness cannot be bought it has to be earned.

New opening batsman Sewnarine Chattergoon seems a good prospect, but he will not get much more than the 40’s he has been recording so far, unless he adopts the lifestyle of a professional sportsman- that of becoming a gym rat and undertaking a diet that supports it.

He is not a product of the last captaincy regime, and here is a good chance to start him on the right track. Among the other batsmen, you can only hope that it is Marlon Samuels’ time to regain the form of South Africa after a failure against Sri Lanka.

And that Sarwan does not fall into the inconstancy mold after his recent success and ditto Gayle and Dwayne Bravo.

The latest objection seems to be the exclusion of Australia born Brendan Nash from the training squad of 17, a decision which appears nothing less that a case of reverse sentimentality.

Of the three-man selection panel, Andy Roberts and Gordon Greenidge were members of the world all conquering 70s’-80s’ West Indies dream teams that took great pleasure in hammering Australia.

They, of all people would not want to be responsible for an Australian reject landing a West Indies Test place.

Certainly not any time now, especially for a 30-year, only one year after packing his bags for Jamaica from Adelaide.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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