IS the West Indies team in the midst of a revival or not? Every time they manage to pull the chestnuts out of the fire and save themselves from defeat, commentators from the West Indies are prone to talk about guts and determination. But when they fail miserably (as happens more often), there is talk of the days of glory in the 1980s and a lot of moaning about inadequate replacements for the stars of those years.
A lot of this talk has to do with emotion, not fact. Some West Indies commentators are former players and they are prone to more emotion than ordinary journalists would be, as they have been out there in the middle during years when the Windies lost just the odd Test and one-dayer. Now, it is the other way around. And even though individual performances sometimes lift the team, the fact that very little has changed from the team which lost 0-5 to South Africa is easily forgotten.
The team is still dependent on a pair of fast bowlers whose combined age is 73. The dependency on Brian Lara for runs has not disappeared; whenever he fires, the rest of the team seems able to score. If he falls cheaply, more often than not the rest follow suit. Jimmy Adams is an extremely decent human being but he is not the type of man who can inspire heroics from his teammates.
So then where does all this talk of a revival spring from? Probably from the old adage of hope springing eternal etc. How can people see a great future for a team which is incapable of bowling out the opposition unless its two main bowlers are given holidays? When is the dependency on Ambrose and Walsh going to end? When is the captain going to have some confidence in the others? Could this not be the very factor which is demoralising bowlers like Rose and King - the fact that their captain does not trust them with the new ball?
On the batting front, things appear to be better but once one digs a bit deeper, then the rot is exposed. Sherwin Campbell still has weaknesses in his technique, weaknesses which have been there since he started playing Test cricket. When is he going to iron them out? When is the batting going to depend on people other than Lara, a man who is clearly not 100 percent interested in the game any more?
It is quite routine to hear of promising young stars from the West Indies and then see them score 20s and 30s all the time; finally they are dropped and go back to making big hundreds at home. Is this going to be the fate of Ramnaresh Sarwan? Or will there be someone to advise him that all this business of looking good while you play is of no use unless you make runs?
The West Indies still lack a good administrative set-up for their cricket and unless that is set right, the kind of things that have happened in the past - for instance the pay dispute which took place on the eve of the il-fated South African tour - will surface again. It does not take much for dissatisfaction to creep in.
No team that is bowled out for 54 in a Test match can ever claim that it has undergone a revival. And cricket writers, be they former Test players or mere mortals, should probably check their prose before committing it to print. The kind of expectations that exist in the Caribbean when it comes to cricket don't exist anywhere else.