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Test cricket needs a leg up!
by Chetan Narula
May 19, 2009
Is Chris Gayle now bored with the usual routine of his team falling apart against strong oppositions, primarily away from home? Back in the Caribbean, they still have a semblance of a shot at getting something out of a rubber, like against England in March. But when away, visiting these very opposition states, they just tend to fold up, even without a fight. It becomes a bit easier to understand why some one like Gayle would talk about it giving it all up and sounding too bored with the game, especially the one played in whites.

Then there is also the monetary angle. Invariably almost always, the West Indies Cricket Board has been in some financial dispute or the other with its players. Plus they don't really pay as much as the players would like. And then there is the Indian Premier League which is like a series of cameos the players have to do, sometimes serious sometimes not, and their bank balances look all the more healthy.

It is no surprise really that the Windies lost the first test so convincingly and at the time of writing were actually going the same way in the second one as well. And it only goes to show why the West Indian coach John Dyson was baying for better preparation. But that is hard to seek when the captain himself is away playing a few extra matches, earning some money and then whining that he had to return while his team-mates are sweating it out, trying to adapt to alien conditions, hoping to fight it out in the middle.

Again, for all the reasons obvious, it is hard not to feel for Gayle and at the same time loathe him for his comments. Yes, he may be part of a sinking ship more often than not but even if there is a wee bit hope, it is his attitude as the skipper that will dig a hole in their fortunes more often than not. Can you imagine a team trying to lift itself up after a defeat inside three days, when their captain has already thrown in the towel, sulking because he missed out on a few extra bucks?

Personally one feels that was the sucker blow to the West Indian team and for all his jibes at Andrew Strauss, they had lost the second test without a ball being bowled. The only problem here is that the West Indies Cricket Board has been silent all this while, where as in any other country, it would have brought out some harsh words from board officials if not ex-players. And that has been the most surprising element of this whole saga.

In a cricketing world, where fans' interest in the longer version of the game is on the wane, Gayle's comments in capacity of being a test team's skipper are nothing short of a killer blow and that there has been no reprimand is the ultimate low point. Yes, he has back-tracked on his words a bit after the loss in the second test, but the world now knows how he truly feels and sometimes you can't take back what damage has been done.

Meanwhile, England will be happy that they are in decent form and have duly completed the formalities expected of them while playing the Windies at home, and can now look ahead to the second part of the summer with a wee-bit more confidence. However, from a fans' perspective - particularly keeping in mind Gayle's comments - the 2-0 whitewash didn't really do the ECB any good in terms of ringing in the cash registers, or enchanting the television audience world wide.

If we look at the last few months, the one contest that has fired imaginations across the globe has been the contest between Australia and South Africa, first in Australia and then in South Africa. Round about the same time, India played England and then New Zealand, while England moved on to play in West Indies. But the latter run-ins failed to excite as much as the idea of a South African win in Aussie-land or the revenge of the Kangaroos.

Test cricket needs a shot in the arm after all the T20 action comes to an end, for the masses, engrossed in playing cricket and those watching from the sidelines, that the five-day version of the game is the pinnacle of cricket and that there are no two ways about it. Chris Gayle might not agree but even he has to realize that there are ten other players who can do what he does in T20 cricket but hardly one or two of those ten players will have the temperament to score a triple hundred in tests, something else that the West Indian captain boasts of.

The coming months will only see the one test series and that is the only sad part. The best part is that it is the Ashes and going by the 2005 series - which was in fact one of the best ever - there is hope that the two teams involved England and Australia, thanks to their respective problems, will put on a show worthy of the tag that this icon series carries!

(The columnist is a sports writer and Mobile ESPN cricket commentator based in New Delhi, India.)
 
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