When Darren Sammy awoke from a slumber filled with English-conquering dreams earlier this month, he would have donned his maroon robe, picked up the St Lucia Express from the doormat and read that England's green and pleasant lands were officially in the midst of severe drought. The pocket hand warmers, a perpetual companion of a West Indian on any England tour, would have been speedily removed from his suitcase to make room for a pair of reflective sunglasses the likes of which Pokemon's Squirtle would afford a nod of approval. Sammy, a nervous flyer, may even have boarded the plane across the Atlantic with a degree of optimism.
Hours later, arriving on English soil to bear witness to biblical downpours last encountered by Noah as he hastily put the finishing touches to his ark, Sammy could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking that the English definition of drought was wildly out of touch with sanity.
The impression that modern West Indian touring sides abhor visiting England sadly endures, yet it hasn't always been the case. Where the God-like players of yore encountered the very same chilled winds, wet early English summers and unfavourable batting conditions, they opted for a scorched earth policy. Once lush outfields were left bare as the mighty projectiles launched from the bats of King Viv and co reduced each blade of grass in their path to mere cinders, whilst keeping the precipitation at bay through fear of their wrath should it dare to make an appearance. Darren Sammy's charges combat the elements in a very different manner, and it doesn't provide quite such impressive viewing. During a recent warm-up fixture against the England Lions at Wantage Road the only West Indian without deeply pocketed hands was wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin. How times have changed.
Haphazard mismanagement by the West Indies Cricket Board has ensured that Sammy's side will attempt to compete against Test cricket's number one team bereft of star performers Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, who are both on Indian Premier League duty, whilst young spin-wizard Sunil Narine remains with Kolkata Knight Riders in the same competition. Rather bizarrely, and even more so after a fine century for Leicestershire in the County Championship today, middle order batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan has been omitted from the squad entirely. It may be a decision that the selectors are beginning to rue, and it doesn't bode well for the West Indies that in all possibility a West Indies team superior to the eleven that will be walking out at Lord's tomorrow could perhaps be mustered.
Despite a courageous effort against Australia recently, a series in which they were ultimately defeated 2-0, the West Indies, for all their promise, displayed a propensity for capitulating just as victory looked to be a possibility. Winning is said to be a habit, but so is losing, and like a chain smoker that had progressed on to nicotine patches before reverting to 40 a day they are finding it rather difficult to walk away from. A shaky top order, ably reinforced by the indomitable but beleaguered Shivnarine Chanderpaul, can expect little charity from an English bowling attack that is simply lethal in their own conditions. The West Indies bowling unit possesses no shortage of pace and fire in Fidel Edwards and the impressive Kemar Roach, but it remains to be seen if they are able to gain mastery over the swinging ball, a bowler's greatest asset in such conditions.
In truth, Darren Sammy may well be hoping that this English drought continues. If rainfall akin to that which has fallen since a hosepipe ban was enforced across many parts of the country continues then his side may well come away with the unlikeliest of series draws. It seems unlikely, but sadly it is in all likelihood their sole hope.
For the West Indies, this series is about progress. They will of course retain hopes of causing an astonishing upset, but only the most pessimistic of English fans would be fearing such an outcome. After competing against Australia there are signs that this cricketing giant is slowly beginning to re-awaken having lain dormant for the best part of two decades. This series is an important cross-roads in the re-emergence of West Indian cricket. If they can remain competitive against an England side that are often rampant in their own conditions it will be a considerable feather in the cap of the West Indies, and another sure step along the road to recovery. A crushing defeat would keep such a recovery firmly in Sammy's dreams.
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