The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Youngsters shouldn’t take place for granted

It was to be a special Test. But it turned out to be the poorest since I returned to West Indies cricket. My 100th Test in the maroon cap was anything but joyful. We are a young side and need time but it should no longer be an excuse. If the West Indies is to live up to its brilliant past, the present generation must take its share of responsibility. A few guys are in their early 20s and some of them have played 20-25 Tests. By now they need to show they are maturing.

Our past two tours to the Indian sub-continent were ruinous in terms of results. We were drubbed by Pakistan at the neutral venue of Sharjah. Then in Sri Lanka, despite Brian Lara’s brilliance, the score read 3-0. I remember, in Sharjah one of the prime reasons for our disappointing turn was dropped catches. We let go no less than 21 catches in two Tests. By the evidence of the Mumbai Test, the horrors in the field continue to be committed.

Of the three catches dropped in India’s first innings, Sachin Tendulkar’s didn’t prove too costly. But Sehwag’s miss when he was in the 70s was terrible. A couple of catches we dropped in the field should have been held at any level of cricket. Theorists could point flaws in our coaching in domestic cricket or in the basics we teach youngsters but the coach (Roger Harper) or the captain could go only till a certain point. It is the players who have to go out and perform in the middle.

We haven’t had a big discussion on our defeat in Mumbai till now and the players were left to reflect on their own shortcomings. The good thing is that the chairman of selectors Sir Vivian Richards, is around. I am sure the message would soon be out that nobody can take his place for granted in the team. Just being on tour doesn’t mean players could get away with poor performances time and again. If replacements are to be found, I am sure Viv would not mind taking the tough route.

I was extremely successful when the Indians toured the West Indies early this year but since then my returns have not been encouraging. There was not much to recommend when we were engaged in two home Tests against New Zealand and I also didn’t hit straps in the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka.

My critics would point out to the false hook shot, which ejected me from the middle, a similar stroke to the one that shaped our defeat against the Indians at Port of Spain in April. I am not too worried though. If I feel the need to hook in the next Test to a certain delivery, you would find me going for it again.

Zaheer built on my dismissal and picked up a few important wickets on the third afternoon. It left too huge a road to recovery to traverse for us. The left-arm paceman is bowling with confidence and seems to be carrying on his good form from the Champions Trophy.

Harbhajan picked up a big haul in the second innings and for two successive Tests against us, the off-spinner has done well. I have been told he complained about different balls in the West Indies, which led to his inconsistent performance on the tour. But he only has to look at Muralidharan and Shane Warne to realise they are champion bowlers because they bowl in different conditions and with different balls without a dip in performance.

On a personal note, I felt grateful for the Indian cricket board to have honoured me on my 100th Test. I also received a fax of congratulation from the West Indies board but it was not a big thing among us teammates as we wanted it low key and concentrate on the first Test which is always so important in a short series of three games. We are up against it now but so were we when we trailed the Indians 1-0 in a home series not long ago. All of you must be aware what was the final outcome of the series.

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