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Tour debate

By Scyld Berry

8 March 1998

Scyld Berry: How do you see the series, 2-1 to the West Indies as it now stands, going from here?

Michael Atherton: Both sides must be confident of bowling the other one out twice - certainly we are. The key is who gets a good first innings on the board and is able to dictate the game, as the West Indies did in Guyana. The toss in Guyana was important as the pitch deteriorated rapidly.

Angus Fraser: The West Indies have the upper hand, and it's going to be hard for us, but if we don't believe we can win, we might as well go home now. The sides are still evenly matched we have got to raise our game again to the levels in Trinidad.

Colin Croft: The momentum has shifted to the West Indies and I expect them to win 3-1. They batted well in Guyana. And then, Curtly Ambrose is hungry. In Guyana it wasn't the way he was bowling but how he was walking back to his mark. His overs were taking two and a half minutes, like Carl Hooper. He raises his game against England and Australia, especially when newspapers have written him off.

SB: After an England defeat there's always a need to find a scapegoat and this time it seems to be Jack Russell. What's the England rationale for him keeping wicket, not Alec Stewart?

MA: We looked like beating the West Indies in the first Trinidad Test and beat them in the second, so there's no need for panic changes. We have looked like bowling out the West Indies every time with three seamers and a spinner. In Zimbabwe and New Zealand two spinners were an absolute must but here they don't win Test matches by and large. Stewie has been our best batsman and by giving him the gloves you're endangering that because he wouldn't be able to keep wicket and open.

SB: As a team-mate of Mark Ramprakash for the last 10 years, Angus, what was different about him here? He was in the Tendulkar/Mark Waugh class, when facing the leg-spinner on a dusty turner.

AF: He looked relaxed and at ease, even when he was waiting to bat, not like at Johannesburg in 1995. He played well in his last Test against Australia and he's got to the stage when he thinks he might as well enjoy it.

SB: What about Brian Lara's captaincy?

CC: It's different! It might be confusing at times but he's getting results. I don't think his form is all that good though: his eye is good, his form isn't. He's playing across the line all the time.

AF: That's because we haven't given him any width. By the way Colin, you got stuck into us four years ago. Have your views been as critical this time?

CC: England and the West Indies are on the same level going in different directions. England must be one of the youngest Test teams, apart from those like you two and Stewart and Russell, and that has to be good for you.

SB: It was said before England arrived that this series was crucial to the revival of West Indian cricket. Do we perceive it that way, making the qualification that Jamaica has always been the exception in having track-and-field as its primary sport?

MA: I sense that in Jamaica the game's struggling a bit, with the onset of football. Obviously the farce at Sabina Park didn't help. In Guyana, the Americanisation is less pronounced than there or Barbados or Trinidad.

CC: In Guyana and Barbados, if the West Indies lose, it's worse than a world war, because they don't have anything bigger than cricket. In Trinidad they have the 'calypso mentality'. When the carnival was on two weeks ago, everybody was running round and you needed a microscope to see what they were wearing, and nobody remembered the results of the Test matches there.

AF: On the cricket side of it, there have been a few bowlers who have impressed in our other games.

MA: They've got plenty of young quick bowlers, but we've not seen many young batsmen, and part of that is the pitches they play on. All first-class games here seem to finish in two or three days.

CC: It's better to have a pitch that produces a result than totals of 600.

AF: I agree. It's hard work being a fast bowler out here. After a Test match, I feel as if I've been kicked from pillar to post.

CC: I really don't think it's the pitches which are responsible, but the attitude of the Test cricketers. You can get into the Test team and earn US $5,000 a game, with an average of 30.

In the nets in Georgetown, you might have seen Andrew Lyght - a Rasta. He used to open the batting for Guyana. He scored five hundreds in successive Red Stripe matches, but he couldn't get into the Test team because of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. Richard de Souza in Trinidad was another - in the late Seventies he made runs like rain, and couldn't get in. You talk to guys like that and they're upset. Now you can be mediocre and walk into the Test team.

MA: Were they playing on better pitches?

CC: The pitches might have been better, but these guys were prepared to work and work and work. People here keep comparing Sherwin Campbell and Stuart Williams to Greenidge and Haynes, and Viv Richards to Brian Lara. I think you should say: ``Viv Richards? Take a break, and talk about Lara tomorrow.''

SB: Isn't a large part of the West Indian problem with their opening batting the fact that Campbell and Williams never played with Greenidge and Haynes and they never passed on their knowledge, especially of which ball to leave?

MA: The trouble is, in the West Indies you're always comparing with a golden age. When I first played against them, the West Indies had six or seven world-class players. That was exceptional and now you've got normality with one or two world-class players.

AF: What's the infrastructure like here below first-class level?

CC: None. We have youth tournaments, but only for a six-week period each year. The next generation of batsmen were taken to South Africa with the 'A' team and some were expected to play against you but they got clobbered. And my problem with the young fast bowlers is that they're never fit.

AF: It must be difficult if you have an injury, because there's so little cricket. In England you could say there's too much cricket, but at least it's a chance to get back.

SB: Is this tour crucial for the revival of England too?

AF: English cricket has been laughed at in recent years, and that hurts. The profile of the game went through the roof last summer, when England won the three one-dayers against Australia and the first Test at Edgbaston. The support is clearly there, but it needs us to start winning.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 08 Mar1998 - 14:32