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Betrayal of a proud cricketing culture

PEOPLE in the Caribbean will be in sober mood today. The news that their cricket team has been roasted 5-0 by South Africa makes it a sad day for them. It is also a grievous betrayal of a proud cricketing culture.

Individuals are irrelevant to an exercise of this nature. What matters is that what were once a proud bunch of cricketers went to South Africa for what is arguably their most important cricket tour. And there they capitulated abjectly, without a fight. They batted badly, as even indisciplined schoolboys would not. They did not pull together at any stage; after each defeat, there were meaningless words uttered. There was no effort made at any stage to reverse the trend.

The only noticeable thing they did was to split the team by asking for more money. Mercenaries are supposed to do a job better than ordinary people on contract. This bunch did much worse. Only ordinary mortals like Ridley Jacobs came out with a reputation of any sort.

There is no way reputations can be remade. Even if they win all the seven one-day matches it will be of little use. They have humiliated every cricket lover in the Caribbean and something must be done on an urgent basis to prevent a recurrence when Australia tour the region. Remember, we are talking of a much harder, much more professional bunch, the only ones who stand in the way of South Africa being number one.

This tour has been a disaster. There has been little communication between the officials and the captain. And none between the captain and the team. Understanding must dawn that temporary solutions -- plugging a hole in a dike needs more than a finger -- will not work. Long-term thinking is needed. There are good cricketing brains in the region, all of which must be drafted in and put to work.

The days of superstars are over. All one needs are average players who are willing to stay there and fight. One does not need half-centuries scored in 50 balls. People must stay there and occupy the crease; that is the way Test matches are won. Runs have to be there on the board. A team which does not cross 300 even once in 10 innings cannot expect to defeat a team like South Africa.

Think of the 5-1 defeat in Australia in 1975-76. The West Indies were up against two of the best fast bowlers the game has ever known. Was there anything comparable in South Africa? Think of the batting Greg Chappell had at his disposal and compare the current South African line-up. There is no comparison. No, this series was lost more because of a lack of fight in the dog. There was nobody who wanted to fight it out except young Jacobs. Unfortunately for him, one man cannot win a Test -- except a multi-talented man like the great Sobers.

Why, after Rose and Dillon were unearthed in early 1997, were they not gradually groomed to take over as the main bowling pair? Why was an aged creaking opening pair brought in during the England series when there are good openers in the Caribbean? Why were batsmen like Robert Samuels taken on tours and then, just as they seemed to have found their feet, never looked at again? And why are there incompetents who seem to never come good but continue to be part of the party every time?

There are more questions than anybody would care to answer and although one would like to dismember some of the senior members here, one sees little point in that. This is the time for deep introspection because everybody must be hurting. It is a shame for the West Indies. They have let down the cricketing masses in South Africa who looked to them for inspiration. They have played like amateurs. They have done world cricket no good; a team like this benefits the game little. And they have betrayed a proud cricketing heritage.

Think of cricketers like Sir Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards. Proud West Indians all, all men who put their team on the map of world cricket in no uncertain way. Sir Frank Worrell must be turning in his grave. It is time for looking ahead and acting fast to prevent anything like this in future. The patient is now in a coma. The authorities must act before death arrives and rigor mortis sets in. Then the trend would be irreversible.

The whitewashes:

Australia beat England 5-0 in 1920-21: The first 5-0 series win. The Australians were led by Warwick Armstrong.

Australia beat South Africa 5-0 in 1931-1932: Don Bradman averaged 201.5 in this series. Clarrie Grimmett took 33 wickets, including 14 for 199 at Adelaide.

England beat India 5-0 in 1959: Only one test, the fourth at Old Trafford, went to five days because Colin Cowdrey did not enforce the follow-on. Two lasted just three days.

West Indies beat India 5-0 in 1961-62: Indian captain Nari Contractor fractured his skull playing Barbados, almost died and never played international cricket again. Gary Sobers scored 153 and 104 at Kingston and Rohan Kanhai 138 at Kingston and 139 at Port-of-Spain.

West Indies beat England 5-0 in 1984: Lloyd's team was not fazed by Allan Lamb's three centuries. Batsman of the summer was Gordon Greenidge who scored two double centuries.

West Indies beat England 5-0 in 1986: Viv Richards scored an astonishing hundred from 56 balls in Antigua while England, with sloppy dress and voluntary nets, looked a shambles under David Gower and suffered a double whitewash.

South Africa beat West Indies 5-0 in 1998-99: Only two Tests went into the final day. No team scored over 400; the West Indies highest score was 217 without a single hundred from any batsman. Two Tests ended inside three days, one inside four. Five hundreds and 11 half-centuries by South African batsmen; only seven half-centuries by the West Indies.