JIIMY Adams's 50th Test brought him no joy. Australia have expectedly equalled the record set by the West Indies in 1984-85 - winning 11 Tests on the trot. The Windies wiped out a record set by an Australian team, Warwick Armstrong's boys, way back in 1921, and their record in turn will be buried in Perth in a week or so. Steve Waugh intends to win all five Tests this time, make no mistake about that.
And as with all things cricketing, the comparisons must needs be made: is this mob of Waugh's in any way the equivalent of Clive Lloyd's gang? Are the two sides comparable? And what of the victories and the sides over which they were achieved? As usual, this will irritate some, and make others nod in agreement. Logic does not have much place when when it comes to matters concerning cricket.
The West Indies team of 1984-85 won their 11 Tests on the trot in the Caribbean against Australia (three Tests), against England in England (five) and then against Australia in Australia (three). Wessels, Dyson, Wood, Border, Hughes, Yallop, Hilditch, Phillips, Boon, Rixon, McDermott, Lawson, Hogg, Rackemann, Hookes, Ritchie, Smith, Alderman, Bennett, Holland - these names are those of the Australians who were in the squads that were beaten thrice at home and away. Some played in the away series, some at home. A mediocre lot? I wouldn't dare to say that.
Fowler, Gower, Lamb, Botham, Lloyd, Pringle, Randall, Miller, Cook, Willis, Downton, Broad, Foster, Pocock, Allott, Cowans, Terry - these were most of the Englishmen who were given a 5-0 blackwash. Again, would you call this lot an ordinary bunch? I, most certainly, would not. And for the pedantic, I may have missed a name or two, but this lot suffices to prove what I am saying.
The truth is the West Indies team of that era was vastly superior to even teams made up of individuals like those listed above. They were head and shoulders above the rest. They lost Tests, sure, but to a large extent only after the series was all sealed up. Australia were bowled out for 76 in Perth once and for 97 in the Caribbean. England never suffered that kind of humiliation but were beaten nevertheless and quite soundly too. If you grade the opposition at 50 out of 100, then the West Indies were well above 80.Now to Waugh's opponents in those 11 Tests - Zimbabwe (one Test), Pakistan, India and New Zealand (three apiece), and the West Indies. Only one of these teams, Pakistan, can be considered anything like decent opposition. And they were on top a couple of times but ended up on the losing side. In Hobart, Pakistan had the better of things but then one decision went against them - Langer was given not out when he was caught behind - and they lost heart after that. Agreed, it was an unprofessional approach, but the Pakistanis are prone to react that way.
India had no bowling or batting to speak of on the faster wickets - they are tigers at home, witness the way Dravid and Tendulkar are boosting their averages on the featherbeds at home - and Zimbabwe are relative babes in the woods. New Zealand are erratic at best. The West Indies team which was beaten in Brisbane is a bit of a joke as far as ability is concerned.Every team's achievements can only be measured in terms of the opposition of its time. Therefore, numerically Waugh's team has equalled a record. But they are not in any way equal to the team which set it. Would you exchange Greenidge and Haynes for either Slater or Hayden? Richards for Langer? Richardson for Ponting? Gomes for Mark Waugh? Dujon for Gilchrist? Lloyd for Steve Waugh? Marshall, Garner, Holding and Walsh for McGrath, MacGill, Lee and Bichel/Gillespie/Fleming? And look at those comparisons with an unbiased eye. Perhaps, one would play Warne or MacGill if only for the variety; as far as potency goes, I would prefer the four Windies quicks any day.
Records cannot and never will be the yardstick with which one can measure the goodness or greatness of a team. The present Australian team has in its ranks some very good players. Steve Waugh is one of the best fighters who has ever graced the cricket field. The players' abilities are far superior to those of their times. As a unit, they are better in every aspect of the game. But claims to being the best team of all time and similar stuff must be taken with a pinch of salt. Lawry's team which was beaten 4-0 by South Africa in 1970 was equal to Steve Waugh's team and that says as much about the Australian team of that time as it does about the awesome power of the South Africans of that period. And then what of the teams led by Ian Chappell and his brother Greg?
It would, therefore, be good if these records were viewed in context and some sense of proportion is maintained when waxing lyrical about a team. Waugh's team is very good in terms of the opposition it faces these days. And let's leave it at that.