Australia’s defeat of the once-dominant West Indies is a sad reminder that mismatches in Test cricket should no longer be tolerated.
Up until now, we have covered all the tales of West Indies cricket and its unfortunate decline. We have listened to them, read them, and even written about them. Tour after tour, we have longed for the past and whispered the names of intimidating former champions like a repetitive prayer. However, after the current team’s defeat by 10 wickets before lunch on the third day at Adelaide, there was a noticeable decrease in these discussions. The glory days are now so distant that even our mourning for them has become nostalgic.
Fair enough, too. The start of the great West Indies era is nearly 50 years past. Even its last flickers in 1999 were a quarter of a century ago. One might as well pine for Richie Benaud bowling around the wicket at Old Trafford. By now Australia dishing out a heavy beating to the Caribbean team is just contemporary reality.
The television broadcast ended with Brendon Julian’s mention that Australia had successfully kept the Frank Worrell Trophy. He carefully pronounced the line in order to avoid repeating a mistake he made during the 2015 series. However, this was just a brief comment before a long commercial break and a replay of the match.
In 1995, Australia claimed the title of the biggest prize in the world, which was previously held by West Indies teams for eight consecutive series. This trophy was created in response to the excitement surrounding West Indies’ visit in 1960-61. However, it has now become a secondary consideration and is awarded after only one match in a two-Test series that is not deemed worthy of being called a true series.
The women’s team of West Indies has only played one Test in the last 45 years and it is unlikely that they will have the opportunity to play another one. On the other hand, the men’s team of West Indies continues to perform decently at the lower end of the spectrum. They typically defeat teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and have also managed to win a few games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Interestingly, they tend to do well against England when playing at home and have even won some Tests while playing away.
It has been almost a decade since they emerged victorious over New Zealand in a Test match. The most recent win against South Africa was in 2007, while the last time they beat Australia was in 2003. Their last victory against India dates back to 2002, and their last win in Australia was in 1997. A different perspective shows that West Indies’ previous 50 Test triumphs can be traced back to the iconic one in Kingston in 1999, while their 50 losses only go as far back as Lord’s in 2012.
Although some talented West Indies players were absent from the team, it is unlikely that their presence would have altered the outcome in Adelaide. These teams have consistently been outperformed. The issue of sustaining the popularity of Test cricket in regions where it is not flourishing is most evident in the Caribbean.
The West Indies Cricket Board invests funds into the format, according to their allocation. However, there has been a change in demographics and priorities. Domestic first-class cricket is limited and now played on slow spinning pitches. This results in players who excel in red-ball cricket having long breaks between short assignments, while those who excel in white-ball cricket are quickly recruited by T20 leagues. This is expected to be the situation for Shamar Joseph, who, along with Kirk McKenzie, showed promise during the match in Adelaide.
“Prior to the start of the first day, former champion Brian Lara made a statement about not wanting to see him with the bat. Ironically, Joseph’s unexpected 55-run partnership at No 11 ended up being crucial in keeping his team in the game. By the following day, he had impressed with five wickets on his debut and had won over the crowd. On the third morning, his batting skills helped propel West Indies into the lead.”
I enjoyed it immensely, but a skilled player who can deliver a quick bouncer, make the ball move unpredictably, and hit a six with a pull shot will be highly sought after. Test cricket serves as a platform for showcasing talent, while T20 is like a large retail store without windows. For a child from a disadvantaged logging community in Guyana, they will likely have to accept any offers that come their way, unlike players with Australian contracts who have the luxury of being able to decline certain opportunities.
Although Josh Hazlewood and Travis Head may celebrate their achievements in Test cricket, it’s important to acknowledge that the discrepancies in difficulty are a result of unequal opportunities. It’s promising to see that administrators from wealthier nations are recognizing this issue and considering potential solutions. However, the challenge remains in turning words into actions.