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Windies aren't what they used to be

GLORY DAYS: Watching Courtney Walsh celebrate taking a wicket seems a long time ago given the state of affairs with West Indies cricket

THERE WAS a time when a West Indies cricket tour to the United Kingdom created excitement and anticipation. That is no longer the case.

The Caribbean outfit play three Tests, five one-day internationals and one Twenty20 (T20) fixture when they arrive on these shores in August, but nobody cares any more. Why? Well, the situation isn’t helped by the fact that when it comes to Test cricket, the West Indies, for some time now, have been abysmal. West Indies are eighth in the Test rankings, with only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe below them.

The game of gentlemen has always relied on stats and facts, but some of them are unpalatable for those that have and/or continue to follow the West Indies in the five-day version of the sport. A look at West Indies Test results since 2004 makes horrific reading. They have played 40 Test series up until the end of last year, and won just seven. Add the fact that four of those wins have come against Bangladesh and one against Zimbabwe and you realise the extent of the malaise.

The only genuine Test-playing nations that have been beaten in that time have been England and New Zealand.

There was a time in the 1950s and 60s that cricket created a sense of pride in those that had left the Caribbean and ventured to these shores. Many a black factory worker could confidently puff out his/her chest as the West Indies put England, and many other teams, to the sword. Those victories for Clive Lloyd’s team came against a backdrop of ‘no blacks, no Irish or dogs’ in this country as racism prevailed.

FALLEN FROM GRACE: The Windies (photo credit: Sky Sports)

How times have changed. There was a time when supporters of the team could name the XI that took to the fi eld, I defy anyone to name the West Indies Test team today. No one’s bothered anymore. Where are the characters in the present Test set-up? The likes of the three Ws – Clyde Walcott, Everton Weeks and Frank Worrell – Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Brian Lara have never truly been replaced in terms of ability and charisma.

Ironically, the West Indies’ cause has not been helped by a board of control that has proved to be as incompetent as some of the players. It has been clear, even during the glory days, that the West Indies Cricket Board have, on occasion, hindered as opposed to have helped the sport. They have played a role in the decline, but it is not the administrators that take to the field, is it?

Yes, there have been two admirable World T20 successes to crow about by the men’s senior team, and even the West Indies’ Women have chipped in with their own global T20 triumph.

Those confirm that the emphasis has turned from Test cricket to the shortest – and most lucrative – version of the game. That is still no excuse for West Indies’ awful Test record.

I was in Barbados late last year and cricket is still hugely popular and always will be. Some of the youngsters I witnessed on Bajan fields of dreams will grow up not just to follow in the glorious footsteps of some of the legends of the game – rather they will want to earn huge sums of money for their efforts. That is why the NBA and Premier League football has eaten into potential cricket talent.

However, the biggest chunk taken out of the game has been because there is no West Indies Test success to point to. The summer series in England will no doubt see only a smattering of West Indies supporters follow the team, and who can blame those that decide to stay away?

The facts are the facts. West Indies Test cricket has most of us stumped.

Rodney Hinds is the sports editor of The Voice and a lifelong West Indies fan.

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