December 11, 2015

Horse 2040 - The West Indies Will Lose The Test Series But They'll Have Fun Doing It

From the air conditioned comfort of the commentary box yesterday, Mark Taylor and Shane Warne broadcasted a stream of disappointment and gloom that would make Sauron's Tower atop Mount Doom look like a château in the mountains. Yes, the West Indies are looking up at a mountainous difference in quality to the Australian side; yes this is being evidenced by the ridiculous score of 438 on day one but what Messers Taylor and Warne have forgotten from their upholstered box of luxury is that when you're chasing a little red ball around a field, that's a lot harder than supping on cucumber sandwiches from the comfort of a commentary box.
The distance in quality between these two sides is obvious to all. However, what we saw on day one at Bellerive Oval is that elusive something which the West Indies have brought with them - fun.

I think that it's fair to say that Jason Holder's fielding choices weren't particularly attacking. As the afternoon wore on and tiredness set in, it also became apparent that the West Indies were in defensive mode and damage control rather than trying to attack the batsmen. Particularly late in the day and on his way to an unbroken 174, Adam Voges was able to glide singles about to his heart's content and Shaun Marsh knew that Bellerive Oval is small enough that if you hit the ball hard enough you can literally smack it into the Derwent. As a bowler, to face that sort of abuse to your bowling figures is pretty demoralising.
Nevertheless, as a side, the West Indies were still able to keep smiles on their faces and a spring in their step. We even heard the summer stylings of Denesh Ramdin, ska hero extraordinare. The microphone in the stumps on several occasions overheard the encouragement to "Pick it up, pick it up, pick it up" whilst being accompanied by mouth trumpet.

When I was a small kid; growing up in the 1980s; in the era immediately after Kerry Packer had changed cricket forever and given everyone coloured clothing, the West Indies Cricket Team was a side to be feared. Greenidge, Richardson, Haynes, IVA Richards, Dujon, Garner. Those six names would have been enough to make opposition sides cower in the toilet block. Those days are long since over and we've seen over the last few years, a dour West Indies who are constantly being compared to a legend of almost forty years ago. That simply isn't fair.
For the kids who grew up after that time, the name Dwight Yorke captured their imagination more and the immediate result was that Jamaica started qualifying for Football World Cups rather than winning Cricket World Cups.
Without that blazing heat of attention, West Indian cricket kind of cooled off and once Brian Lara had got old and retired, that attention was elsewhere.

Something strange appears to have happened in quiet though. The West Indian cricket team hasn't yet got back to winning ways but they have found something which has been missing for a long time. They found the music.

Even if Dwayne Bravo decides not to play for the West Indies because he likes the sound of the capitalist piano (ka-ching), we saw eleven players in the field who more than likely knew full well in advance that they will lose the Test Series 3-0 anyway but they're still dancing to a different tune despite this.
Marlon Samuels' patrols from backward square to mid-on might have been woefully inadequate but he didn't give up his task. Jerome Taylor who laboured with the ball and got less help from the pitch than a herder on a cat farm, still threw down quite a lot of very good deliveries. If one ball in a over gets sent over the boundary for six, no one ever remembers how good the other five balks in the over were.
Yes, the crowd were quiet but this is Hobart. Hobart is one of those cities where you can still find people stopped in their cars in the middle of the national highway having a chat to each other with the windows rolled down. There's so few people in Hobart that there isn't so much a Mexican Wave as there is the Bellerive Ripple; which amounts to a bunch of people sort of standing still and shrugging as it makes its way around the ground. Just wait until we get to the cauldron of the MCG and you'll see a very different reaction from the crowd.
What we won't get though, is a different tune from the West Indies. West Indian cricket might very well have a long way to go if it is ever to build a new set of glory days but even in the shadow of 400 runs being scored against them in a day, they kept singing, they kept laughing and they kept on dancing.

Even if this West Indies side doesn't achieve anything, they have at very least showed us that they have remembered who they are; even if they did let Voges and Marsh get away from them.

Australia is 438/3 at stumps on Day One.

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