WHEN Carl Hooper led the West Indies for the first time and earned a draw, there were many who immediately saw some kind of resurgence in the West Indies. The days of gloom and doom were over, predicted these prophets, the captain had inspired his team (some of whom, admittedly, he had met for the first time when they turned up for play on the first day) and the bad days were behind them.
Hey presto, hardly was the ink dry on these pundits' pronouncements when the West Indies lost in their time-honoured manner - collapsing when they were chasing a target of just 232. To cap it all, the maestro, Brian Lara, made a duck on his own home ground. Hooper made two half-centuries in the match but the so-called inspiration which he was supposed to have provided was missing.
It is difficult for many commentators in the West Indies to face up to the fact that their cricket team has to come into the 21st century. The old methods of relying on talent and individual brilliance are long gone. Cricket is now a team game and a group of 11 physically and mentally fit individuals of very average talents can outdo an unfit, disjointed team which has in its ranks a few oustanding individuals. That is a hard lesson to swallow for the West Indies who supposedly play the game "differently."
The conversion to this more modern mode of thinking is not helped in any way by blinkered commentators like Colin Croft who may have been great cricketers but who lack basic commonsense. Croft once again was in the forefront of those who saw miraculous qualities in Hooper and offered the opinion that the team was now playing like an international cricket team. A great many media outlets are happy to play host to this kind of drivel since it helps to underline the theories which they have held for a long time.
The West Indies lost the plot in 1992 and will never be able to get it back again. Not unless they admit frankly that they are all at sea in this world of modern cricket and are able to give one man who has cricketing ability and leadership skills (where is he???) the freedom to lead a team and ask for people with ability to be part of his venture. Lloyd was such a rare individual and the main reason why he succeeded was because nobody stood in his way. He got the team he wanted and he played the game as he saw fit. The results tell their own story.
This period of ascendancy was also one of great financial gain to the West Indies. They were a drawcard everywhere and were much in demand. This led to many others jumping on the bandwagon to live off the reflected glory. And there you have the answer as to what is wrong with West Indies cricket: these parasites are still around, trying to bask in other people's doings. Until all these chamchas (to use a very Indian word) are removed, West Indies cricket will be its mediocre self.
South Africa will wipe the floor with the West Indies in the next three Tests. Anybody who is thinking of a resurgence, forget it fast. By some fluke, the West Indies drew the first Test. They will not get a look in during the remaining three Tests. It will be shades of the 1998-99 series in South Africa all over again.