media_artricles :: 2017
Lowering the standardFazeer Mohammed :: Trinidad Express :: 17.04.2017
Khalifa St Fort is on record as stating that she expects to be challenging for the gold medal in the women's 100 metres on the track at the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. Swimmer Dylan Carter and javelin thrower Tyriq Horsford no doubt have their own lofty aspirations.
Whether or not they achieve their goals, isn't it all part of the make-up of the genuine sporting competitor to set targets that may appear unattainable at first, but serve as motivation in pushing body, mind and spirit to new standards of excellence?
So what is this notion that has gained increasing currency—with the West Indies continuing to languish in Test cricket mediocrity—which suggests that they should not be burdened with constant reminders of the outstanding teams and individuals of the past, and that it is somehow unfair to weight them down with the expectation that they can somehow begin to match those achievements?
In the wake of series losses in both the T20's and One-Day Internationals against Pakistan, there is already a palpably downbeat attitude to the three-Test duel beginning on Friday in Kingston, notwithstanding the fact that seven previous touring teams from that country have failed to win a Test series here.
And while those sentiments may be justified, given the home team's long-standing low ranking (eighth, just ahead of Bangladesh with only Zimbabwe at the rear), it cannot be acceptable to anyone with even the remotest sense of history of the West Indies in the traditional format of the game for the mediocrity that has become increasingly commonplace to be accepted as the new normal.
Lest we forget, West Indies not only set a new standard for invincibility by going 15 years (1980 to 1995) unbeaten in Test series, but previous to that were consistently among the teams in the game from their first post-World War II series in 1948. So the very idea that comparing contemporary players unfavourably to West Indian teams of the past is putting undue pressure on the incumbents is utterly ludicrous.
Should Usain Bolt's mark of 9.58 seconds for the 100-metre sprint be raised to 9.68 because it doesn't seem that anyone can get close to it? What about eliminating Sir Donald Bradman's batting average of 99.94 since it's so far ahead of everyone else in 140 years of Test cricket that it makes no sense putting it at the top of the list anymore?
Nonsense, right? Then why shouldn't we be expecting the West Indies cricketers of today to even have what would be considered "average" numbers, especially with all of the opportunities and assistance afforded them in the modern game? It's not as if everyone else —India, Australia and South Africa for example—has sunk way below the standards of their previous teams, so why are we resigned to accepting such ordinariness from a region that produced consistent excellence for almost 50 years?
Of those expected to comprise the batting line-up for that first Test at Sabina Park, none averages 40 in Tests. Opener Kraigg Brathwaite, the hero of the West Indies' last Test when his unbeaten innings of 142 and 60 (a feat never before achieved by an opener in Tests) were critical in a five-wicket series-ending victory over Pakistan in Sharjah last November, is closest at 37.52 from 34 matches.
Darren Bravo averages exactly 40, although his apparent refusal to publicly apologise for his Twitter rant against the West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron immediately after that tour of the United Arab Emirates has seen him alienated and now a member of the Kolkata Knight Riders for this year's Indian Premier League.
Yet even his greatest supporters must accept that if he is as good as they maintain that he is, he should be closer to the numbers put up by the best in Tests at the moment: Australia's Steve Smith (61.06), Englishman Joe Root (52.80), New Zealander Kane Williamson (51.16) and India's Virat Kohli (49.41).
As for the bowling, the situation is even more desperate, none of the frontline performers taking their wickets at less than 35 runs apiece. Devendra Bishoo's haul of 18 in the three Tests against the Pakistanis in the UAE has improved his overall numbers considerably, yet compared with the best in the world, his record of 77 wickets from 21 matches at 37.00 merely reinforces why it has been so difficult for the West Indies to dismiss teams twice.
No wonder fast bowler Jerome Taylor (130 wickets at 34.46 from 46 matches) feels he has a chance at a second Test career. West Indies cricket set a standard no-one has yet matched, and even below that, were always competitive. After 22 years of struggle, many seem to have accepted that even consistent competitiveness is unattainable.
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LOFTY ASPIRATIONS: T&T's Khalifa St Fort.