The best way to wipe this West Indies team out of your consciousness is to take your glasses off and pretend that Darren Bravo is Brian Lara.
But that bit of compassionate self-deception will only postpone the pain. True, Bravo looks like Lara, left-handed, high-backlifted and with plenty of time to play his shots, but there the similarities run out of steam. Bravo averages 41 versus the great man’s 53; his highest score is 218 versus that monumental 400. Lara was the best batsman in a still-(just about) great West Indies side; Bravo, pre-eminent in a lousy team.
And the fact is that the comparison between Lara and Bravo, who incidentally hero worships the maestro, is a lot less stark than between any other couple taken from this West Indies side and ones from the past. Any one for Braithwaite versus Greenidge? Chandrika versus Haynes? Blackwood versus Richards?
Even for those unburdened by memories of the 1980s and 1990s, the recently concluded first Test Australia versus West Indies made for painful watching. Not just were the West Indies inept, but often also disinterested: Watch Marlon Samuels saunter aimlessly behind a ball as it speeds to the boundary. Perhaps it is the influence of modern day “great”, Chris Gayle, who made his contempt for the five-day game well known, in the process demotivating a generation of young cricketers.
As a fan noted, the modern West Indians seem to believe in the Homer Simpson dictum: “If something is hard to do, then it’s not worth doing”. Test cricket is a hard grind; why not settle for the quick T20 bucks? To make matters worse, a petulant battle between the players and board has deprived the modern West Indies of any small chance of competing in Test cricket.
The sad truth is that some of the great Barbadians and Guyanese of the 1980s and 1990s are destined to revolve in their graves, having witnessed, in their autumn years, such a precipitous decline.
Clearly, it’s time to do something -- or indulge in some tongue-in-cheek fantasising about what should be done -- to arrest the seemingly inexorable slide.
Soft, short-term option: Persuade a prominent cricketer to make a politically incorrect comment aimed at the West Indies. In 1976, the late Tony Greig galvanised the Caribbean side into action with a thoughtless comment about intending to “make them grovel”. He may have been England captain but the fact that he was a white South African immediately gave the comments a racist tinge. The rest, as they say, was history, and if there was anyone grovelling at the end, it wasn’t the West Indies.
Perhaps a similar comment now would work to light the proverbial fire under the West Indians’ backsides. But then, perhaps it won’t: The current lot are an amiable bunch. One can well imagine them saying something along the lines of: “He probably didn’t mean ill; let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. And disproving him is hard work, anyway.”
If plan A doesn’t work, adopt plan B. For part of the period that the calypso charmers ruled Test cricket, England were an embarrassment. Over the years, a set of South African players of greater steel gave the team some backbone; there was the odd Zimbabwean; a handful of Indian-origin players; and, ironically, some of Caribbean origin who added more than a dash of flair. Why, there was even the odd Australian. The message is clear: When the local product doesn’t cut it, become an import-dominated economy.
Accordingly, the West Indies should welcome foreigners to settle in the Caribbean and qualify for the national side; many would then saunter into the team. Imagine a gun for hire like Andrew Symonds coming in at number 5 in this side; Other, recently retired, Australian cricketers would easily qualify. Even a past-sell-by date Shahid Afridi would make a world of difference. More Test failures for Indian players like the prodigiously talented and enigmatic Rohit Sharma, and the sunny Caribbean could be an option.
The selectors could retain Darren Bravo in the team as the only son of the soil. It would remind those with awkwardly long memories of Brian Lara and the days gone by, when sides trembled – not laughed -- at the thought of the West Indies.