England v West Indies – A Floodlit Farce


England today wrapped up victory by an innings and 209 runs . It wasn’t a shock. It wasn’t England playing out of their skins. It wasn’t even a difficult pitch or particularly bad conditions. No. England turned up, played up to par, made the runs, took the wickets, finished it within three days and can rest up for another “difficult” match whenever these two sides meet again. Is it next week? Who the hell cares?

You don’t need me to go into the gory details. 19 wickets in a day. According to the sources this is the first time this has happened in the history of West Indies cricket. We’ve seem some nonsense in the past, but this is a serious nadir in the history of the game in the Caribbean. These lads out there are not equipped to play in these conditions. A couple might have had county games (Roach, maybe?) but the rest are greenhorns over here. In the Caribbean they might put up more of a fight (we drew the last series, lost the one before that in the West Indies) but this is wretched. I’ll talk more about that in a post when I get the time, because West Indies is part of my cricketing education, my DNA, my historical linchpin. When I grew up they were the greatest. The team we never seemed close to beating. A team with legends. Even when they waned in the 90s and early 2000s, you still had Ambrose, you still had Walsh, you still had Hooper, Chanderpaul and of course, my favourite and my greatest player, Brian Lara. They may not have fired, but they were frequently very interesting.

This procession has told England nothing. We have learned nothing. We cannot be surprised at the team in front of us who we are pummeling. How can you be happy watching this? The game is more than stats-padding and notching up simple victories. It has to be about a contest, and if it isn’t about a contest, then it should be because it is an all-time great outfit administering the whupping.

Innocent Bystander is particularly fervent when he asks why it would be good for cricket if England lost to the West Indies? I know what he means. The above question posed by Lawrence Booth is an interesting one. Are we just being patronising by “feeling sorry” for the West Indies? I genuinely don’t mean to be, because they mean a lot to me as a fan. So I answered truthfully. I much preferred the 1980s to this. Because that was a team full of stars. Even their “less-heralded” players like Larry Gomes, or Gus Logie, would get 100 caps in this generation. To win a test against that team was amazing – I remember Jamaica 1990 as one of the most exciting wins by an England team – whereas this England team are plodding ordinary when the mood doesn’t take them.

I’m not running through the day’s play. Why should I? Read it in the news, watch the highlights, listen to them pontificate on Cricket Writers. Let them all tut tut about how this is poor for test cricket as if they have played no part in it. As if the international authorities husbanded the money for the rich guys and cared not a shit for the others. How maladministration in all forms is badly under-reported, both internationally and at a local level – boots not suits is a short-term cure with a long-term disease – and now test cricket is royally on its knees. This test hasn’t just led me to this conclusion, it’s been the nagging thought in the back of my head for quite a few years. The one you hope goes away, where each team has two or three top players you need to get out, two really decent bowlers who you genuinely fear. Now Test cricket is dying before our eyes, and while Sky laud the England team, they also know this is a pup. You can see it in their eyes. You can hear it in their voices. A chap I follow on Twitter, who I disagree with a lot on cricket, has asked whether this is the last time the West Indies tour here. It should be if they can’t pick their best XI. That’s for starters. KP says there might be thousands of kids playing cricket, as some Windies Empty Suit blathered about at tea, but they all want to play T20. The heart sinks, and you hope some of them are inspired by Lara, by Richards and by the other greats and not some hit and giggle bollocks that disappears into the ether as soon as it is finished.

There’s more where this came from. England won. Cook got a lot of runs. Some Twitter peeps got a little bit too chopsy, asking me to cheer harder (honestly) and accused this blog of being set up to hate Cook (honestly), and having a go because we point out he’s not doing brilliantly against top oppo and hasn’t for a long time, but still remains firmly our best opener and he batted very well. This sort of nonsense is a sideshow. We are watching the end of days of top class test cricket. I’m sad. Three days and nights to give you much food for thought.

Shiny Toy has the answer.

Have a good rest of the weekend. We hadn’t planned for a fourth day scribe. Now you know why.