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Windies vs Australia

22 December, 2000


THE performance of the West Indies in the first innings of the third test against Australia confirmed one thing that was, perhaps, at the back of many people's minds:

That the West Indies is a better team than the record suggests.

This notion, of course, contradicts the view of some which held that the West Indies is probably only better than Zimbabwe, with even Sri Lanka and New Zealand holding precedence in the test team rankings. Instead, here we had the much maligned "Windies" scoring 391 and then restricting the Aussies to only a slight advantage in their reply.

The key to all of this lies in the displays of two players for whom much is always expected, but who went down with the ship in the first two tests - Brian Lara and Jimmy Adams. The partnership between the two, with Lara hitting 182 and Adams inching his way to 49, formed the backbone of the West Indies innings and highlighted what had been missing all along: the need for the senior players to lace up their boots and lead the way. Indeed, the difference made by Lara and Adams only serves to conjure up thoughts of what might have been had other players, such as Sherwin Campbell and Wavell Hinds, done more.

It was always difficult to classify the West Indies as a weak side: because of the presence of many individuals who have proven themselves to be outstanding players in the past, and because of the obvious fact that they were not playing to the best of their ability. Finally, the West Indies batsmen were able to take advantage of a favourable pitch and really make Glenn McGrath work for a wicket. Ultimately, the Australian paceman who had terrorized the tourists in the first two games got none. Now, the psychological trump cards are in the hands of the West Indies batsmen, with the chance that this can now become a competitive series, when once it threatened to be a whitewash.

Now, it is important that the likes of Lara, Adams, Campbell, Jacobs and Walsh demonstrate some consistency and show the way for the youth brigade of Ganga, Hinds, Sarwan and Samuels. Both the remaining tests and the upcoming one-day tournament will be crucial in the continuing development of the next generation of West Indies players. More encouraging performances will serve to boost confidence and foster the notion among the players that they are capable of achieving success. As they should soon learn, it is only a matter of playing hard and letting the opposition know that they are in a game.

After so many false dawns in the preceding decade, maybe this is what the West Indies truly needed: to prove itself against the world's best. Yes, it's true that one has to take into account the impending returns of Steve Waugh and Brett Lee, but that is all part of the challenge of sports. For the current West Indies team to hold its own for the rest of the Australia tour, and then to do well against South Africa next year, may finally represent the foundation from which the West Indies will rise into the elite of test cricket, once again.