IN 1991, the Australian team under Allan Border toured the Caribbean. The five-Test series ended in a 2-1 victory for the West Indies. Australia won the one-day series 4-1. A man named Rudi Webster, the same person whom the West Indies are now crying out for to counsel their team, predicted soon after this tour that there were all the signs that Australia would soon come to dominate world cricket. I don't think people really believed him at that stage. Now they probably would, with the benefit of hindsight.
The Australian domination does have something to do with the fact that world cricket itself has few class players around. Certainly not as many as were around in the period from the mid-70s to the mid-90s. The reasons are difficult to find; if anything, given the rewards that cricket offers these days, there should be more and more youngsters trying to excel in order to get into the team. That does not seem to be the case.
But this does not detract from the fact that Australia is an extremely competitive team. If they are disliked, then it is only because they tend to indulge in behaviour that is unnecessary. And I am not talking of things off the field, I am talking about on-field activities like Glenn McGrath's tendency to abuse and the refusal to walk when one is clearly out. The Australian players do not need to indulge in these things to win; they can do so easily otherwise.
Back to the West Indies travails. Much as the captain talks about this and that, he appears to be very low on confidence himself. He seems to be unwilling to take risks and attack; it is unlikely that players will follow what he says unless he puts some of what he says into practice. Young players like Daren Ganga and Ramnaresh Sarwan are particularly in need of a captain who can be a father figure as well, else they may go into permanent decline.
Above all, the West Indies should stop looking to Brian Lara to resuscitate the team. He is not interested in the game, not interested in the team, not even interested in himself at times. He has lost the motivation because he has made enough out of the game to enjoy a lifestyle which only a few cricketers can dream of. That is the end of his aspirations. Ability does not always translate into high ideals.
Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney will be similar to the Tests in Brisbane and Perth. The margins of defeat may be less. But that is about all this present lot of West Indies cricketers can hope for. They had better get ready for an equally bad hammering back home when South Africa reaches the Caribbean. It may be time to seriously think of touring Bangladesh in order to feel what it is like to win.