Is it all down to economics?
England declared their first innings closed on 514 runs for eight wickets. In response, West Indies were all out for 168 runs. There are those of us of a certain age who remember when it was otherwise, the West Indies touring teams of 1976, 1980 and 1984 swept aside the English opposition with the minimum of effort.
It is the 1976 series that remains the hmost memorable, as much for what happened off the field as for the cricket itself. Before the series began, Tony Greig, the England captain, made the now infamous comments about making the West Indians grovel:
I like to think that people are building these West Indians up, because I’m not really sure they’re as good as everyone thinks they are. I think people tend to forget it wasn’t that long ago they were beaten 5–1 by the Australians and only just managed to keep their heads above water against the Indians just a short time ago as well. Sure, they’ve got a couple of fast bowlers, but really I don’t think we’re going to run into anything more sensational than Thomson and Lillee and so really I’m not all that worried about them. You must remember that the West Indians, these guys, if they get on top are magnificent cricketers. But if they’re down, they grovel, and I intend, with the help of Closey and a few others, to make them grovel.
No West Indies coach could have inspired the players as much as did Greig’s badly chosen words. The West Indies amassed a huge first innings total of 687 for 8, Vivian Richards contributing 291 runs to that total. Nine of the eleven England players took a turn at bowling, apart from Alan Knott the wicket keeper, only the batsman Dennis Amiss did not bowl.
West Indian dominance was assumed in those years, there was a fiery enthusiasm for the game. England seemed pedestrian and dully amateur when compared with the speed and flair of the players from Caribbean.
It was Sir Vivian Richards’ account of his childhood and youth in Antiguathat gave one an insight into the motivation that underlay West Indian successes. Cricket was a passport to prosperity, a way out of the poverty that surrounded the lives of many ordinary West Indians. There was no need for Tony Greig to have made silly comments in order for the touring team to arrive enthused to win the matches ahead.
The economic motivation has lost its former strength; other sports are more attractive, more lucrative. The region is more prosperous. It would be tempting to say that economics is not a factor in sport, but the correlation between financial resources and competitive success seems irrefutable.
I have a friend in NZ who deployed one of the tactics the WI’s used in the 70s. When he, using a tennis ball, explained Pythagorean relationships and my head. But in general, cricket, is a mystery to most Irish people. Well, no, that’s not quite correct. At one stage there were more clubs in Tipperary than in Yorkshire. And I’ve had my teas and coffees in the cricket pavilion at NUI,G when I was an undergraduate member. Never seen a game on the pitch though.
What aren’t the English better at it ?. Lack of hunger ?. More hate in the Indians and Sri Lankans, Pakistani and WI’s.