Let's get together for victory's sake

Tony Becca

January 15, 1998

CRICKET: After losing two successive series on tour - one to Australia and one to Pakistan, the West Indies take on England in a home series which, without doubt, is one of their most important for a long time.

It is so important, not only because another defeat would push the Windies further down the ladder, but also because England is the team which every West Indian wants to beat.

There are those who do not recognise it, those who do not want to accept it, and those who do not believe it should be so. Whenever the West Indies and England come face to face however, it is more than a cricket match.

The face of English cricket has changed somewhat over the years, but although players like Roland Butcher, Gladstone Small, Devon Malcolm, and Philip Defreitas have represented England, although Dean Headley, Nasser Hussein, and Mark Ramprakash are in England's touring party, it is to many West Indians, those who were colonialised against the colonial masters, sons of slaves versus sons of slave masters.

There are those who do not believe that it is so. All they have to do however, is listen to the talk in bars, clubs and on verandahs around the region - and also to some of the players who have been involved.

That is probably the reason why the West Indies always appear to be at their best against England, why a series against England is the series of series as far as West Indians are concerned regardless of the strength or weakness of the teams, and why, regardless of what happened in Australia and Pakistan, many believe that the West Indies will rise to the occasion and win this coming series.

For this West Indies team to beat this England team however, apart from the fact that a lot will depend on veteran fast bowlers Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, the team spirit will have to be high. The West Indies will have to be united. It will have be one for all and all for one.

As the two teams prepare for the coming contest however, England captain Mike Atherton must be smiling because of what he is seeing. The same West Indians who want to beat England so badly are doing everything not to encourage good team spirit but to destroy whatever is there.

The West Indies selectors and the Board, rightly or wrongly, have made a choice as to who should now captain the team, and regardless of the pros and cons, that should be it. Certainly by now the debate should have been over.

Continued debate that the selectors and the Board were right in removing Walsh because of his obvious short comings, continued debate that they were wrong in naming Brian Lara because of his obvious short-comings can only lead to pushing the two players apart. Regardless of who believe that Lara did not pull his weight under Walsh and deserves the same kind of treatment, that cannot be good for the team.

Like Walsh, who no one, not if he knows the man or has been around Jamaica or West Indies cricket, should describe as selfish and self-centred, Lara did not select himself as captain and he has a job to do. Like Walsh, Lara will need the support of all the players - probably even more so that of Walsh who is now the team's leading bowler.

Brian Lara is no paragon of virtue, and Courtney Walsh is not the greatest captain ever. Each man had his faults, one probably more than the other, but the more those in favour of one continue to preach why he should be the one and not the other, the more they are stirring up resentment of one for the other, and the lower will be the spirit of the team.

So much of success is team spirit and confidence, and if they do not stop it now, Mike Atherton and his England players will be smiling all the time through to March 24 - the final day of the Test series. If they do not stop it, there will be no smiles, not for only for Lara and not only for Walsh, but also for the other players and for those West Indians who believe that the West Indies versus England is not simply a cricket match.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 19:17