Unless Gayle is sacked and the Windies start competing again, they should pack up and go home.

2009-05-10 00:00

INTERNATIONAL cricket could make much better use of the barrage of fireworks scheduled to celebrate the conclusion of the Indian Premier League at the Wanderers tomorrow evening.

The pyrotechnic rockets should be aimed not at the Johannesburg night sky but at the assembled backsides of the West Indian cricket team. They have become a disgrace ... a disgrace to their families, a disgrace to their schools, a disgrace to their predecessors and a disgrace to their islands.

Their performance in two recent Test matches against England was, in cricket-speak, a shocker. Incredibly, shamefully, unforgivably, too many of them looked disinterested.

In professional sport, most teams lose ... that’s inevitable because only one team can win a competition; and some teams are frankly not very good ... usually because the club or association lacks the resources to assemble a winning side, sometimes because resources have been carelessly wasted. In either case, supporters have a perfect right to complain, but nobody’s integrity is questioned.

Not trying is altogether different.

The dismal decline of West Indies cricket since the 1970s and 1980s is well documented, and the images of genius stroke-playing batsmen such as Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Viv Richards and others, and fantastically talented, intimidating fast bowlers like Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall are only recalled by cricket followers edging past their 40th birthday and beyond.

Current captain Chris Gayle is the logical descendant of these titans, yet this naturally gifted but amazingly misguided individual is not fit to lace their boots, let alone their drinks.

The 29-year-old batsman from Kingston, Jamaica, can smack a cricket ball, as evidenced by his 10 centuries in 82 Tests and 19 centuries in 199 one-day internationals, but, in spite of being 6’2” tall, he has proven emphatically adept at placing either or both of his size-12 feet squarely in his mouth.

He only arrived in England two days before the first Test at Lord’s because the amazingly lax West Indian Cricket Board gave him permission to keep his snout buried in the IPL trough until the last possible moment before flying to London, but he brushed off criticism of his utterly selfish attitude and, in name at least, led the touring team to a heavy defeat inside three days, in reply to 377, dismissed for just 152 and 256.

Arriving in Chester-le-Street ahead of the second Test, Gayle gave an interview to the Guardian newspaper and drained whatever might have remained of his teammates’ morale.

“I would not be so sad if Test cricket gave way to the Twenty20 version of the game,” he opined. “Some players would be sad if Test cricket dies, and Twenty20 comes in. That’s tough luck. I like 20/20. Who doesn’t like it? Maybe a couple of Englishmen wouldn’t like to play Twenty20.”

Asked about the honour of captaining the West Indies, he continued: “To be honest with you, there’s a possibility I might give it up. In fact, I’ll be giving it up shortly. It’s not something I’m looking to hang on to. I need some time for myself, to be honest, it’s a lot of travelling. There’s always something to go and do, you know, extra. Lunch or dinner, there’s always something for the captain. I’m not that type. I can’t take on too much. So soon I will finish with it.”

Effectively encouraged and motivated by the skipper, his team could not prevent England scoring 569 for six declared in their first innings, and then managed no more than 310 all out (with only Ramnaresh Sarwan maintaining any dignity) and a pitiful 176 all out, tumbling to yet another crushing defeat.

Gayle shrugged his shoulders diffidently. In the field, he had stood impassively at first slip, rarely offering a word of encouragement to a member of his team, feet rooted to the ground, hands stuck deep inside his pockets. Only he will know whether he was trying at all. By the end, only he cared.

Professional sport without competition is nothing.

It is a waste of time. Unless Gayle is sacked, and the West Indies start competing again, they should pack up and go home. Once the kings, they have become the vagrants of international cricket.

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