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WINDIES OF CHANGE

Fearsome foursome days long gone

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IN ANOTHER TIME: In the 1980s, the West Indies pace battery of (left to right) Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner was lent greater edge with the addition of Malcolm Marshall. Backed by the most destructive batsmen of their era, the Windies were a formidable force, few teams relishing an encounter with them. Three decades later, that page has long since turned

Boy, has the World Cup undergone a sea change since the time I won it twice as captain or what? There were no free hits for no balls. There were no power plays and there were no white balls and coloured clothing. There was also hardly any team that dared to challenge the West Indies and look us in the eye. Things have certainly changed now and as far as the West Indies are concerned, I can safely say that they haven't been for the better.

The West Indies team that takes the field today and gets beaten more than they win is a far cry from the teams that we played in and I don't think there is anyone else to blame but ourselves. We became too complacent with the talent that we had and the success we enjoyed. We took it for granted that the next Sobers, Richards, Marshalls or Garners could be found easily. We didn't have a system in place for the next generation of West Indian cricketers to train and hone their skills. And now we are paying a serious price for it. We should have had a high performance centre a long time ago, but only recently have we had one in Barbados.

West Indies are also the only country I think to not use their legends more constructively. I don't see any effort made by the board to involve ex-players to come and speak to the youngsters or help them with technical inputs.

Having said that, let's not run this World Cup team down. In Gayle, Barath, Sarwan, Chanderpaul, Roach and Bravo, there is plenty of talent in the squad. Yes, we don't have the pace of Fidel Edwards or Jerome Taylor, but if the players perform to their potential, expect a few upsets.

We must ensure though that we don't place too much of a burden on Chris Gayle. He is a free-spirited cricketer and he plays at his best when there is not too much pressure on him. The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) probably did him a favour by relieving him of the captaincy, because it seemed as if the captaincy pressure was curbing his natural game. We must get out of the syndrome of if Chris plays well, the Windies win, if he doesn't fire, we lose.

There are also some reports doing the rounds that a younger and far more junior cricketer like Darren Sammy being named the captain hasn't gone down well with other seniors in the squad like Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. But I know for a fact that this is not true. Both Sarwan and Chanderpaul were not keen to become captain and they had to look for someone and Sammy seems a fair choice for now. He will have to prove himself on the big stage, but it's not beyond him to do that and I'm sure he will get the support of the other seniors in the squad. Sammy has a few potential game-changers in the side like Gayle, Adrian Barath, Dwanye Bravo and Kemar Roach and if they're in form, they can do the business for the West Indies. What worries me though is the fact that West Indies are a momentum side and play well when they're in rhythm. I'm not too sure whether they will be happy at the schedule they have. They play a game then they're off for six days before they play another.

They would have been happier with a more hectic schedule, say a match every three days. That would have allowed the game-breakers to stay in the zone. As a passionate supporter of West Indies cricket, I hope that they reach the quarterfinals. From then on, it's a question of having three good days and you're World Champions. Mind you, if West Indies do win the World Cup in Mumbai on April 2, it could start a cricketing revolution in the West Indies which might see them get back their glory days. At the moment, it seems like a miracle, but then didn't a miracle happen on June 25, 1983 too?

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