Sachin-less opinion: Windies wilt at the top of the table

Blog Opinion

Warning: The following article will mention Sachin Tendulkar in the first sentence, but never again, writes Tim Ellis.

Warning: The following article will mention Sachin Tendulkar in the first sentence and then not mention him again thereafter.

It is quite incredible to think that Tendulkar and Shivnarine Chanderpaul played their 200th and 150th Test match respectively in Mumbai, where the former finally decided to call time on his international career. The Guyanan's landmark barely registered a column inch in comparison.

It is a shame that Chanderpaul did not register a score of note to gain some kind of recognition within the maelstrom of emotions that were prevalent. Perhaps he, like many neutrals and fans, was depressed at the crumbling of West Indian spirit and backbone when Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin piled on the runs in Kolkata.

Chanderpaul got four starts but his highest score was 41. Only Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin managed to make a half-century in the series. The numbers stacked up more like a Twenty20 International score than a Test match effort.

In mitigation, this was a hastily arranged tour. The West Indians were always going to be a mere sideshow to the hysteria. Unfortunately, the visitors did not take the opportunity to fly under the radar and spoil the party. They barely threw a pie, let alone a punch. The Caribbean compliance ensured that both matches finished within three days.

Darren Sammy admitted: "We left the Caribbean at the back of six Test victories, against Bangladesh, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Coming here really taught us a lesson, exposed us, taught us how far we are behind the top four teams in the world."

Sammy's own position is hardly secure. His batting average has always bordered on the mediocre and his bowling, while economical, will only claim the odd victim or two against higher ranked opposition. It is hard to think of another top international skipper who operates from such an inferior personal base. Sammy admits that in this latest venture, he completely failed to lead from the front. The essence of captaincy transcends statistics but you must motivate your men.

There are other weights that are pulling on the fortunes of his team. Chris Gayle has only played eight Test matches in the last three years. Committed or not, Gayle has no real competition for his place. Kieran Powell needs to kick on from his starts. Kirk Edwards showed great promise in India two years ago but hasn't had a sniff since he scored eight runs in four innings on the tour of England last year. The classy Darren Bravo has been on a downward spiral for 18 months. Top-order insecurity is exacerbated by the long tail.
The Windies flailing – and failing at the long game – is such a sad but familiar sight.

Even when they had Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Gayle in their ranks, there were still the dreadful two- and three-day debacles in England and Australia during 2000. There is always the hope that they will somehow register again as a top Test match nation. The wonderful liberalism of their Twenty20 triumph last October brought a smile to the face, but such a free-spirited approach cannot translate into a competitive animal when there are meatier predators in the red-ball game.

Clive Lloyd sees it in simple terms: "We have the talent here, but we don't have the players who are disciplined. Natural talent is just a part of it. You must have discipline to succeed."

It is a simple message that takes effort to implement. Just ask Chanderpaul.

<b>Tim Ellis</b>

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