– Fire seems to be burning in Babylon!”
Colin E. H. Croft
I am not pleased about it at all, but, as I mentioned weeks ago, I am sure now that West Indies cricket, the international issue, that is, has seen the last of Chris Gayle. I really cannot see any way back now!
If that actually turns out to be so, another great cricketing career would have been curtailed, like many others in that transition period – 1990’s – by cricketing politics much more than by on-field cricket antics!
What disappoints me much is what is reported to have taken place at that very important meeting. I was not there, at that supposedly very fiery encounter between West Indies Cricket Board personnel and Chris Gayle’s representative faction, so I do not know the full truth. But, you know that old story – where there is so much smoke, there normally are flames. Is this the real fire coming from Babylon?
If the reports are true; and a reputable platform like cricket’s internet bible – ‘ESPN – Cricinfo’ – would not have said so had it not been so; then I would simply ask Gayle how he could err so badly, going to a meeting that concerns his very future West Indies cricket-playing life, without a proper lawyer representing him? Something is not right with that equation. How can Gayle be so blindly led?
According to all reports, WICB was represented at the talks about Gayle’s future by Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ernest Hilaire, West Indies Head Coach Ottis Gibson, West Indies senior team manager Richie Richardson and WICB Director of Cricket Tony Howard, all erstwhile gentlemen, with one objective.
West Indies Players Association President and Chief Executive Officer Dininath Ramnarine, WIPA Vice President Wavell Hinds, and Gayle presented another objective, almost certainly not the same one as WICB. Even though I am not a betting man, I would have laid great odds that no agreements would have been forthcoming. After all of that water under the bridge, there really is not much left to say!
While both Ramnarine and Hinds have done much to make WIPA proper representatives of players around the Caribbean, neither is a lawyer. For all intents and purposes, they are unionists. How could Gayle lapse so badly into believing that unionists could represent him in a situation that certainly called for very cool heads and extreme lateral thinking? Bad mistake, man!
I do know for a fact that both WICB and WIPA CEO’s communicate much with each other, so I am sure that you will agree with me that at the very least, their public visage, and that of their factions, are not great at all. There is little trust between them. Being adversarial in this encounter, as reported, was certainly not the time, venue, circumstance, or atmosphere for such a very important pertinent meeting.
When I read the report that suggested that chairs were raised in anger, a-la a bar-room fights in Clint Eastwood’s westerns, I laughed nervously with consternation. That nervousness came with the realization that we have degenerated terribly. West Indies is being sold down a very deep, dirty drain!
At least, our players on the field have shown tremendous mettle, winning the final two ODI’s against India, as was also done against Pakistan. Many would suggest that that is the standard West Indies way over the last several years; first lose the ODI or Test series, then win the last games of that series, especially ODI’s, to show that something is progressing, taking positives from the usual losses.
I was particularly impressed with West Indies win in ODI # 5 v India, as no one was sure how this Sabina Park pitch would have played. The strip stood up well, and things look quite good for at least a faster and bouncier pitch for Test No. 1, at the same venue, starting on Monday. At least, we really hope so!
In the golden days, the halcyon days of “Fire in Babylon”, Sabina Park was extremely fast, glossy and bouncy, the venue for Clive Lloyd’s first experiment with four faster bowlers operating in the same Tests. I even remember my first Test at Sabina, in 1977, against Pakistan, seeing Andy Roberts bowl so quickly that he tore off the pads of Zaheer Abbas while getting him out LBW. Those were the days!
The Indians had suffered greatly too at this venue back in that 1976 experiment, with their batsmen being physically mauled – five batsmen, including opener Anshuman Gaekwad and middle order maestro Gundappa Viswanath, were retired out; injured; absent – with Wayne Daniel, Michael Holding, Bernard Julien and Vanburn Holder turning on their after-burners. That was the start of another time!
That sobering game at Sabina Park had come immediately after India had made a historic 406-4 to win Test No. 3 of that series at the Queen’s Park Oval. Sabina Park and Clive Lloyd also changed history!
Now, through injury, India will be without two of their most senior and effective fast bowlers, Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan, so the tall, sharp Ishant Sharma, and the high-lighted Munaf Patel, will have much work to do, as would India’s best bowler, off-spinner Harbajan Singh, and leg-spinner Amit Misra.
With no Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh either, for varying reasons, India have lost their most productive batting combination for years. This tour will certainly show the resolve and reserves of the supposed world-beating Indians. Now we would surely know how good they really are, as, normally, the extent of any team is measured by its bench strength!
India’s present batting would have to revolve around its captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, VVS Laxman, the venerable and determined Rahul Dravid, and young pups Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli. They probably will not be as worried about West Indies pace these days as was the case back in 1976!
West Indies would be pleased to welcome back Fidel Edwards, who could form a good fast-bowling partnership with Kemar Roach and improved Ravi Rampaul. They should be encouraged by the revamped, hopefully bouncy, Sabina Park, but Andre Russell must be unlucky not to have been selected too, as he has been the form fast-bowling all-rounder.
Much would also be expected from leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo and Darren Sammy. Bishoo has done well so far, but much care must be taken with him. India does not have the reputation of being great players of spin for nothing. Remember, the young Indians are hoping to make their names too!
Of course, there is no place for former captain Chris Gayle, a great pity there, but another opener, Adrian Barath, returns after a long injury lay-off. If he hits his straps immediately, West Indies middle order – Ramnaresh Sarwan, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Brendan Nash and Shiv Chanderpaul, returning to the format he likes best – could be a better force than anyone gave them credit of being.
As happened earlier against Pakistan, this 1st Test in Jamaica is super crucial for both teams, but the pitch probably holds the key to progress and success. If the pitch plays as a Test match pitch should play, then we are in for some real fire in Babylon! Enjoy!
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