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Evading the issue won't help

THERE have been only seven occasions in the history of Test cricket when a team has been beaten 5-0 in a five-Test series. Curiously, on three of those occasions, the team which handed out the whipping was the West Indies - over India in 1961-62, England in 1984 and England in 1986. Now the wheel is slowly coming full circle.

By January 6 or maybe a day or two earlier, the West Indies would have taken their second such beating, the first being at the hands of South Africa in 1998-99. Australia will equal the West Indies record of winning 5-0 thrice when they win the fifth Test at Sydney; in 1920-21, Australia beat England 5-0 and in 1931-32, the Aussies whipped South Africa 5-0. Apart from England which has been beaten 5-0 thrice, no team has been beaten 5-0 more than twice but the West Indies will have some target in mind for erasing that record as well.

What we are witnessing - the abject surrender by the West Indies - is not due to cricketing reasons alone. I have absolutely no doubt that there is no unity within the ranks when the team leaves the Caribbean. At home, these difference are masked; when people are away from home and have to live with each other for months on end, the differences cannot be hidden and a team that is divided against itself will surely fall. As the West Indies have been doing without fail.

Nothing else can account for the fact that of the last 17 Tests played away from home, the Windies have lost 15, won one and drawn one. In Australia, in eight completed innings, they have topped 200 just once. There is worse to come, I fear. There is one more Test and then there are plenty of one-day matches to demonstrate that they are a bunch of rabble posing as a cricket team.

In 1975-76, the West Indies were hammered 5-1 by Australia. During that series, there were times when Gordon Greenidge was at the crease and observed to be actually shaking with fear as Lillee or Thomson ran up to bowl. Sherwin Campbell is not exactly in the same boat but he is pretty close. He looks like a scared rabbit caught in the blinking headlights of a truck that is bearing down on him mercilessly. When he gets out, you can see the relief as he walks off.

That said, during that same 1975-76 series, Viv Richards actually asked to be pushed up the order; he wanted to open the innings! And no, this wasn't craziness, it was Richards' way of doing things. He faced fire with fire and on many occasions, his tactics worked. The faster and higher they came, the harder he swung. He was the only batsman who had a decent average to show after that tour. And he wasn't yet in his prime. The situation now couldn't be more different: every man is trying to get out fast and go home. They know that they will play in the next match, they know the pay packets will keep coming.

Jimmy Adams has to tackle the team's problems head-on. But he isn't doing anything; he is evading the issue by trying to pretend that there is no problem apart from the fact that the team is not focused on the job at hand. But there are a lot of things wrong - the fact that there are only two openers on a long tour, the fact that Wavell Hinds has to bat at number three, a position for which he is clearly unsuited, the inability to persist with newcomers like Marlon Black - if anyone had to be dropped for the fourth Test, it should have been Nixon McLean - the lack of planning, the lack of knowledge of an Australian batsman's weaknesses, and last but not least his inability to play a long innings.

The difference in the two teams is obvious but what is not so obvious is the mental attitude: the West Indies are trying to avoid losing, the Australians are trying to win. That says it all. Of course, the Australians don't have to try very hard but they never give even an inch. They are as hard as nails, that is why they keep winning; there is tremendous competition among them for spots in the team and so everyone is doing his damndest to impress.

It should be noted that Marlon Samuels, who has come into the West Indies team fresh and not yet been affected by the defeatist and negative atmosphere that prevails within, plays the Australian attack as though he is playing club cricket. He is not fazed and has remarkable composure. Ridley Jacobs draws his strength from his religion so he continues to play his normal game and will once again be the lone player who emerges from the tour with an enhanced reputation. But looking at young Samuels, makes one wonder: why wasn't this guy picked in the first place? And the same applies to Jacobs - where was he hiding so long?

Before the tour began I made two predictions: Australia would win 5-0 and Walsh would get to 500 wickets. At least half of that will be true come January 6. Walsh has looked a burdened man on this trip and has bowled well but not as tellingly as he usually does. He will need a few more Tests to get to 500.

After the one-day series, the West Indies next go home to face South Africa and another thrashing, this time at home. The changes will come only when the West Indies board decides to let someone who knows cricket run the show, someone who can act without fear or favour and pick the best regardless of which island they come from. Lloyd had carte blanche with selection and that is why he was able to push the team to the heights he did. Politicians have to step aside, else the 5-0 thrashings will become a routine for a team which was once the standard.