Nov 15, 2015 Sports
Colin E. H. Croft
There have been big headlines for West Indies winning only its final game of that recently concluded, ill-fated, tour of Sri Lanka 2015. One wonders as to whether anyone even expected Jason Holder’s Test and ODI, or Darren Sammy’s T-20 teams, to win any games at all on that trip?
A better question is: “Why have they failed so badly in Sri Lanka?” Was that a result of poor psychological or physical preparations, or both, or perhaps, as reported by attendees to games in SL, that some WI players simply did not seem to care?
WI’s 2015 SL tour reminded of that first ever official, similarly ill-fated, WI tour to South Africa in 1998. That tour was also supposed to have held promises for WI’s team then, after SA had emerged from international sporting isolation, India being the first team to play Tests (four) there in modern times in 1992-93.
WI had played v SA in that single, momentous, historical first Test, after re-emergence, at Kensington Oval in April 1992, a game wonderfully won by WI, with three ODI’s in that tour too. So, 1998’s tour to SA was a return series celebrating SA’s re-birth into international cricket.
Like WI’s 2015 SL tour, WI’s tour to SA 1998 started with much conjecture and confusion, even threats that that 1998’s SA tour might have been cancelled altogether, as there was uncertainty as to if some senior WI players would have toured after initially rejecting offered fees for that tour.
After numerous meetings at London’s Heathrow airport between WI players, WICB and CSA officials, WI eventually embarked on that 1998 SA tour.
In cricket’s recent history, that tour has been highlighted in SA as being one of the worst completed there by any team, since expectations were very high, especially for tens of millions of non-white SA population, for WI to play well.
WI supporters on that 1998 tour were also expectant of better things but were greatly disappointed. WI lost all five Tests – “White-Wash” – while that team won only one international game on that tour too, the second of seven ODI’s; a desperately poor tour effort overall.
WI for Tests and ODI’s in SA 1998: For five Tests – Brian Lara (captain), Jimmy Adams (returned home – injury), Curtly Ambrose, Shiv Chanderpaul, Merve Dillon, Darren Ganga, Carl Hooper, Ridley Jacobs, Clayton Lambert, Rawl Lewis (replaced Dinanath Ramnarine), Nixon Mc Lean, Junior Murray, Dinanath Ramnarine (returned home – injury), Floyd Reifer (replaced Jimmy Adams), Franklyn Rose, Philo Wallace, Courtney Walsh and Stuart Williams. Added for seven ODI’s were Keith Arthurton, Keith Semple, Reon King and Neil McGarrell.
On that tour as one of the radio and television journalists covering that historical tour, three situations would resonate in my mind forever:
Firstly, when asked after arrival in SA at the start of that tour as to how he thought WI would do, one senior WI player suggested that “We are not going to win any game at all on this tour!” He was only slightly wrong. WI won only one of twelve international games played!
Secondly, in Test No. 2 at Port Elizabeth, along with my travel documents and professional licenses being stolen; extremely quickly replaced by US Embassy personnel; I am very sure that I saw two mirages, occurrences that I have never seen previously or since:
(a) One WI batsman was so scared and perplexed at the crease that he froze on the spot as Allan Donald – “White Lightening” – approached, the delivery hitting the limp bat; out caught at slip.
(b) Another WI batsman, on seeing PE’s pitch with live, green grass, somehow caught ‘glandular fever’ immediately, perhaps from fear, and was dubbed unavailable for that Test. Unbelievably, that same player was seen running around the stadium the very next day, a totally miraculous medical recovery!
Thirdly, while refilling my rented car towards the end of that tour, the young black gas-station attendant asked if I was one of the visiting media covering that cricket series. When I replied in the affirmative, his reply was bitter: “Why did West Indies team come here if they could not represent us people properly? We are so disappointed with their results.”
Nothing similar happened on or from WI’s tour to SL 2015, as things have changed, downwards, drastically for WI since 1998, but disappointment has still been great in 2015.
Things, though, could get better for WI, with similar situations following these bad tours. After SA 1998, WI’s next series was against Australia in the Caribbean in 1999, which WI drew well; 2-2 in the Test series and 3-3 in ODI’s; before attending ICC Cricket World Cup 1999 in England.
Uncannily, WI’s next tour will also be to Australia for three Tests over the upcoming Christmas and New Year holiday period. Almost immediately after that tour, WI will go to its best format; T-20 cricket; as ICC World Twenty-20 2016 takes place in India in March and April 2016.
Maybe, just maybe, WI could still come out of this poor tour to SL with better fortunes in future cricket in Australia and then ICC-WT20 2016 in India. Enjoy!
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