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Lack of ability or application?

IT is unlikely that even the most fanatic of West Indies fans expected the team to win the first Test against Australia. Given the showing against an English team a few months ago, the men from the Caribbean were not expected to display any heroics. But capitulation of the sort which was witnessed was not expected either. Or was it?

It appears that the entire business of resisting the Australian juggernaut is squarely laid at the feet of one man, Brian Lara. These tactics do not work. What Lara came up with in the Caribbean the last time these teams met is a once-off happening, one that cannot happen again. He may perform well again but then again he may not. The rest of the team has to play its role and consider him just another member.

There is something called commonsense which the West Indies sorely lack. There was no need for their batsmen to try and be aggressive and then pass it off as their natural game. Frankly, this team has no natural game. They have no choice but to be patient and wear down the opposition. This is the only tactic that will work when the opposition is so overwhelmingly superior.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul showed what could be achieved. By the law of averages, any bowler will bowl a bad ball at least once in two overs. The West Indies batsmen have to take advantage of lapses in the opposition camp; they do not have the wherewithal to launch a frontal attack and win the day. Foolish acts like Daren Ganga's blind charge down the wicket to try and play a defensive stroke to a ball from Stuart MacGill will bring no reward.

I think the West Indies have no stomach for a fight. They are trying to run away from a situation and as long as their pay packets are coming in they do not care. Unfortunately, the selectors do not have much choice when it comes to choosing a team either. The cupboards in the Caribbean are mostly bare.

It is also time to stop living in the past. Time to stop thinking of the great deeds of the teams led by Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards. This is a different era and a different team. This team may be able to draw a couple of the remaining four Tests. At best, they may be able to win one. They should play within their limitations and they will give a good account of themselves. If each and every batsman tries to meet fire with fire, they will fail. One needs ability to do that and the West Indies do not have that kind of talent in their ranks.

The team should go out there with the intention of occupying the crease for two days. Never mind if you make only 300 runs. Survival must be learnt first. The strokes can come later. Of course, if a full toss comes along, one is not being asked not to give it the treatment. But attempting to hit every ball into the Atlantic is not a wise course of action.

If the West Indies buckle down and use their heads a bit, they will probably fare a little better in the remaining four Tests. If they try to be heroes and go out to the middle with visions of reducing the Australians to second-best, they might as well pack up and go home right now.