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Little to cheer about

The West Indies victory over Sri Lanka in both the one-day tie and the two-Test series notwithstanding, there is little for the home team to cheer about. On the other hand, the series has shown up some alarming lacunae in the West Indies ranks, all of which cannot be attributed to the absence of their most reliable player, Shivnarine Chanderpaul. And if this is so, if a team is affected so badly by the absence of one player, then there is something basically wrong with the team.

Curtley Ambrose won the first Test for the West Indies. And this is no cause for rejoicing for if the West Indies still have to depend on a man like him for a match-winning performance -- a man who is, by his own admission, thinking of retiring any time now -- then there is something lacking in the ranks. Again, the fact that they came close to victory in the second Test was due to Courtney Walsh, a bowler who is a year older than Ambrose. Where is the talent to replace these two workhorses? Rose and Dillon have shown glimpses of class, the former enough to be thought of as one of the four-man attack which will carry on after Walsh and Ambrose are gone, but that is all.

Bishop does not inspire confidence; his big days are few and far between and somebody more consistent is needed. The West Indies selectors have damned Winston Benjamin but there is still a chance that the other Benjamin, Kenny, will be brought back into the squad and groomed to step into the shoes of the two who have carried the team for a long time now. Going by the team selection, it seems extremely unlikely that any spinner is going to play a role in the West Indies, not unless there is a wicket which is turning a mile on day one of a Test. Even then, Hooper and Adams (if he is lucky enough to regain his place) may be considered sufficient.

The batting was pathetic. The only time the scorers had any work was in the second innings of the second Test when Lara got a ton. And here it must be asked -- is it necessary for Lara to get a ton for the West Indies to get a respectable total? This is a mental block and unless the team shakes it off, it is going to be a real millstone round their collective neck. It happened many a time in Australia and it is happening again, that too against a team like Lanka, who, despite their one-day credentials, are no great shakes in the Test arena, not yet.

There are some questions to be raised about team selection too: Robert Samuels was given his baptism in Australia and then unceremoniously dropped. This, after he had come good in the final Test of that series. Williams was brought in and, to be true, he has taken his chance and made good. Out of the blue, Holder was brought in and despite, making just two half-centuries since then, it looks as though he will continue to hold his spot for a long time. What of Adams? Is he beyond repair? Why was Samuels not given a chance against Lanka? What was the point of pushing another youngster, Reifer, in and seeing him fail?

If the winners have this much to ponder about, what of the losers? Lanka have their problems too, plenty of them. Firstly, their batsmen have to realise that they cannot score at the speed of light in a five-day game. Going hammer for tongs may be good strategy in a one-day game but that does not work out in the longer version. Jayasuriya and, to a lesser extent, the captain, did bat responsibly but a lot still depends on one man -- Aravinda de Silva -- and when he fails, the team tends to follow him down. The time he made some runs, the team came close to winning.

The Lankans need a steady number three and one cannot understand why personal animosities are not set aside and Gurusinghe recalled. Atapattu is not a capable replacement and even his own brother-in-law, the skipper, cannot shut his eyes to this. Incidentally, there seems to be some kind of family reunion going on here, for the skipper's brother was also in the team for the second Test. He did nothing of note.

On the bowling front, it was evident that while Muralitharan may be a matchwinner in some conditions, he is nowhere near the class of a Chandrasekhar or an Underwood, both of whom would have had a ball on the wicket used for the first Test. Murali cannot win a match on his own in these conditions and he lacked sufficient support. These problems must be addressed before the Sri Lankan team is made into a family affair.