After the West Indies' defeat at Trent Bridge, questions will be asked about why the tourists are unable to assemble a side that can pose a meaningful threat to the hosts. The West Indies have shown plenty of spirit in both matches with Chanderpaul, Sammy and Samuels all grafting composed innings. The bowling attack has sparked only fitfully with Roach and Rampaul unable to put together a consistent match-winning spell. Three-fors and two-fors might be representative of an honest day's work but they are unlikely to win Test matches. The tourists found a bright spark at Lord's in the form of Shannon Gabriel but his potential has been dimmed by the all-too familiar problem afflicting fast bowlers of back trouble.
Gabriel's replacement is Tino Best, a bowler remembered not for his devastating wicket-taking ability, but for being the subject of the only successful sledge by Andrew Flintoff. "Mind the windows Tino," said Freddie as he attempted to heave Ashley Giles out of Lord's in 2004. As a player with a Test batting average of 9.80, the only impact that Best was going to have on the windows was if he replicated the Matt Prior method of reacting to a dismissal.
Best was not picked for Trent Bridge and may not get the call for the match at Edgbaston. Yet his call-up brings to mind the question of whatever happened to Jerome Taylor, the man who played a large part in England's humiliation at Sabina Park in 2009. This is a player who should be leading the tourists' attack, inspiring the same fear in Pietersen, Cook and Prior, all of whom were victims as England fell to their third lowest ever total in Test cricket. His figures of 5 for 11 do not give a proper account of the menace that he carried as English wickets continued to fall. Unlike the previous West Indian greats of Marshall, Holding and Bishop, Taylor is not a tall man but got his potency from a high action with a quick-snap delivery. As each wicket fell, there was increasing sense amongst the English batsmen that they were helpless as they continued to be cut down in just over two and a half hours of batting.
But Taylor will not have the chance to wreak more havoc on England's batting line-up and looks unlikely to be set loose on international teams for the near future. His absence from Test cricket is emblematic of the conflicts that modern day cricketers face. There is a golden treadmill of T20 franchises around the world, all looking for the most explosive of batsmen and the most ruthless of bowlers. Yet to go and chase the riches on offer means deciding to forgo essential periods of rest and coming into conflict with national boards of selectors.
Born in Jamaica in 1984, Taylor should be at an age where he is hitting his peak as a fast bowler. His prowess was seen at the 2006 Champions Trophy where he was the leading wicket taker with thirteen wickets. These included a hat trick against Australia, removing Mike Hussey, Brett Lee and Brad Hogg. His star continued to rise throughout the following years. A maiden Test century against New Zealand two years later suggested that he had the ability to become a genuine all-rounder. On the eve of his famous day against England, he was snapped by the Punjab Kings for $150,000.
Yet it has all been downhill from that day at Sabina Park. A return tour of England saw the West Indies lose the Wisden Trophy only three months after winning it and Taylor was poor. He picked up only two wickets at an average of 85.50. His venom had gone and he looked disinterested in both matches. His last Test was against Australia in 2009 and by the time June comes round, it will be two years since he has played international cricket. He was left out of the provisional squad for the 2011 World Cup over a disagreement with the national board of selectors about his treatment for a back injury. During this period of dispute with the West Indian Cricket Board, his contract was bought out by Pune Warriors, although he had mixed time in IPL 2011.
Taylor's exclusion from the touring party, along with batsmen Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle, has brought criticism from former bowling great Michael Holding, who said, 'What sort of motivation is that for a young man like that? You rule him out for 2011, against Australia and against England that they are playing now, more than likely he won't be selected again to the team. There's no opportunity to bring him in.'
Taylor is now on the books of the Chittagong Kings in the Bangladesh Premier League. He has not played a match this year. He was bought for $50,000, and even if he won't receive that amount due to the lack of activity, he can still find himself well remunerated for little work. He may find another contract with another franchise but whether he is able to find it within himself to get him back to his previous levels of menace and swagger, reducing the world's best batsmen to fumbling, groping milksops,only time will tell.
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