No pleasing some people

By John SternEngland's cricketers know there is no pleasing some people. In the aftermath of their crushing victory over West Indies in the second Test there have been as many commiserations for the hapless tourists as there have congratulations for the home side.

By John Stern

England's cricketers know there is no pleasing some people. In the aftermath of their crushing victory over West Indies in the second Test there have been as many commiserations for the hapless tourists as there have congratulations for the home side.

You wouldn't catch the Australians showing the slightest sympathy for the West Indians if they were the ones inflicting the sort of damage meted out by England at Headingley.

But the fact remains that however much English cricket supporters care about their success of their own team, there is a deeper concern for the game as a whole and an affection for the cricket and cricketers of the Caribbean that does not seem to have been dulled by the memory of the 1980s 'blackwashes'.

And to witness the worst defeat in West Indies' glorious history leaves a slightly sour taste in the mouth once you have toasted the return of Michael Vaughan, the emergence of Ryan Sidebottom and the majesty of Kevin Pietersen.

It is not that West Indies don't have talented players. They clearly do but many are inexperienced, unprofessional and ill-disciplined. On top of that, three of their most accomplished batsmen were missing at Headingley: Brian Lara, who retired after the World Cup, Shiv Chanderpaul, who withdrew before the match with injury, and Ramnaresh Sarwan, who cruelly injured his shoulder in the field and was unable to bat.

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Plenty better sides than West Indies would struggle to recover from those losses. With Chanderpaul and Sarwan in the line-up, West Indies forced a draw the first Test at Lord's. At Headingley, with England having the best of the conditions to bat and bowl, it was no contest.

Now that Sarwan has been forced out of the tour because of his injury, it will be a major surprise if England do not wrap up the remaining two Tests at Old Trafford next week and Chester-le-Street the week after.

Twenty years ago, when West Indies ruled the cricket world and were dishing out a series of hidings to England, their players were much sought after by county sides.

The tide has turned so far against the hiring of West Indies' players now and their lack of experience of alien conditions is hampering their cricket development.

For West Indians of the 1980s, read Australians of the 2000s. Even Aussies who can't get a game for their national side are star players for counties. Likewise a generation ago, quick bowlers like Wayne Daniel, Vanburn Holder and Sylvester Clarke were outstanding county performers despite only being on the fringe of the international side.

There seems to be a lack of confidence in West Indian players around the counties. Some of the current crop have made fleeting appearances for county sides like Dwayne Bravo for Kent last year, Chris Gayle for Worcestershire and Sarwan for Gloucestershire.

But Caribbean cricketers are no longer top of the counties' shopping list and their cricket is the poorer because of it. Partly it is the availability and reliability of fringe Australian players who offer such value for money to counties and are not hampered by international commitments. But there is also a theory that there is no longer the financial necessity for cricketers to leave the Caribbean and earn a living overseas.

Whatever the reasons, West Indian cricketers need exposure and experience overseas otherwise they will continue to fail. And for all the pride in England's performance at Headingley, there is still a sadness in the plight of the West Indies.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer, the world's best-selling monthly cricket magazine. www.thewisdencricketer.com