TOMORROW England begin a Test series against the West Indies – so why am I not excited?!
As a teenage cricket addict I have to admit that this series was more important to me than the Ashes.
Not only did I get to see one of my major heroes in action – at both Old Trafford and Headingley – in Trinidad and Tobago wicketkeeper Deryck Murray, but also to see England attempt to stand up to a ferocious bowling attack allied to an awesome batting line-up.
As a youngster back in the 1970s I was more adept at naming the West Indies line-up than England’s.
This probably had more to do with the fact that the home team were often forced into changing the team from game to game, left selecting those still standing or forced into recalling the likes of Brian Close who was one of the few prepared to stand up to the pace and aggression of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Wayne Daniel.
However, the mid-seventies was not a flash in the pan.
I was taken to those games by my Dad – who is still umpiring in the Yorkshire Council this season at 81 – who regaled me with tales of Wes Hall and Weekes, Walcott and Worrell.
As Lancashire supporters we were obviously keen to see Clive Lloyd perform to the best of his abilities, despite being on the opposing side, and there cannot be a genuine cricket fan on the planet who wasn’t thrilled to watch the force of nature that was Sir Isaac Vivian Richards in full flow.
And after the seventies the Caribbean continued to produce cricketers of breath-taking ability in bowlers like Malcolm Marshall and Courtney Walsh and a record-breaking batsman in Brian Lara.
So what on earth has happened to the West Indies production line of talent?
While it would be remiss of a sports journalist to say something like ‘I honestly can’t name you the current West Indies XI’, it would still be very true to note that those names do not roll off the tongue and an amount of research has to be done.
More worrying is that the tourists go into this series having ‘warmed-up’ by producing a reportedly abject performance in being well beaten by 10 wickets by an England Lions side at Northampton.
For the best part of four decades you would not have put a young England side up against the West Indies touring team for fear of it putting them off cricket for life, let alone expect them to go out there and turn the tourists over with ease.
Internal politics and the lure of the rewards of the Indian Premier League have served to weaken the current Windies set-up to an extent, but you can’t help but feel that team coach Ottis Gibson might be as well giving himself a game – at least he should know the England bowling attack inside out.
It would be a very pleasant surprise if the West Indies do make a real contest of the three match series, but sadly the necessary use of the word surprise shows just how the cricketing times have changed for the men who used to backed by a beer can beating rhythm section who used to create the atmosphere and brighten up the terraces at Test matches throughout England.