Early but shocking Christmas gift for Australia
The West Indies, from all appearances, has presented Australia with the generosity of an early Christmas package. It isn't that anyone in his right senses could have expected – at the very best – more than a passable showing by Jason Holder and his boys. Hopes indeed were dim when over in Sri Lanka the team presented itself as utterly abysmal in its batting. Amazingly, the grimness of the situation was underlined as excessively so in that the selectors opted to resign themselves to sending the same group of players as sacrificial lambs to Australia. The ill omen was further illumined in the warm-up match against an Australian President's side, comprised principally of raw recruits, who just failed to beat West Indies by the ignominious margin of an innings!
Any understanding of what Test cricket is all about inclines one to believe a party of cricketers would endeavour to perform according to their best strengths. And if in our case it is the bowling, the expectation predicates much verve and enthusiasm to be reflected in this department. Accordingly, we must feel extremely grave embarrassment on the part of Curtley Ambrose – in the uncomfortable position of bowling coach.
Australia won the toss and batted to commence the three match series at Hobart. The question was how well the West Indies quick bowlers would comport themselves, bearing in mind they showed a measure of promise in Sri Lanka. To speak the truth, the first hour of play was exceedingly disgraceful on the part of our pacers.
In ten overs Australia raced to 70 via a menu of ludicrously poor bowling garnished with 15 fours. It was distressing to see what might only be construed as sabotage of an unpardonable sort. The number of benignly overpitched deliveries went beyond count. When this is equated against the memory of Ambrose, who prided himself on presenting Australian batsmen with nothing they could drive, the offerings of Roach and Taylor in particular were shockingly scandalous.
If the form of these two is anything to go by, one or other ought to have been left out of the side, at least for the opening Test. It is perplexing to calculate how the promise of Davindra Bishoo could have been ignored in favour of wantonly profligate new ball bowlers. It took some better thinking on the part of Shannon Gabriel to separate the Aussie pair of Warner and Burns. The latter was disposed of by a good off cutter to make it 76 for one – Burns made 33, leaving the feasting to his left handed partner. But 28 runs later Steve Smith, too, succumbed, caught at slip off the slow left armers of Warrican playing in his second Test match.
All of a sudden West Indies were admitted back into a serious reckoning if only they could get the wicket of David Warner whose very high scoring was pivotal in Australia's recent series win over New Zealand.
Too good to be true, Warrican struck again, claiming Warner's scalp when he was on 64, caught on the stroke of lunch by Ramdin. The score at 121 for 3 had seen West Indies reprieved to the point where they could – given a modicum of essential belief in themselves, lift themselves above the pathetic nature of their commencement to the match.
Any such outlook towards upliftment, alas, was no more than wishful thinking. Everything remotely honourable was subjugated under a dismal trend of going through the motions in no more than a listless manner.
Australians are not given to lowering their playing standards to pander to anaemic opponents. They seek always to trample upon the hapless. And that's how it should be. Both Adam Voges and Shawn Marsh politely helped themselves to centuries while lifting the score to well past 400 and raising prospect of a record for their fourth wicket partnership.
At 80 overs the score was 415 for 3 which, for the opening day of a Test match, makes a mammoth of 700 a likely possibility. Australia 438 for 3, Voges 174 not out, Marsh 138 not out, putting on 317 undefeated, not far from the 4th wicket record between Australia and West Indies.
Beyond any shadow of doubt, the insipid taste from the West Indies fiasco of the first day of this Hobart Test urges strongest consensus towards highly drastic measures needed to be adopted to save Caribbean cricket. The bare thought that the players are being actually paid for what pittifully passes as performance at the International level is painfully distressing. A sordid limit has been reached and we cannot endure more sinking into the depths. Is there any manhood in our players? This is a question loaded with pathos! Restructuring of West Indies cricket poses an embarrassing necessity. The rest of the world views us a downright disgraceful liability at a time when the international game seeks to move forward under brighter glare of the global public. The West Indies team is a downright disgrace. Meaningful management is needed to stem the horrible tie of endemic deterioration.