West Indies left India this week still searching for answers they sought before arriving on the sub continent in preparation for the World Cup.
The four-match series was intended to be the final rehearsal before the Caribbean squad plays host to the world’s premier competition.
Instead the management is still in a quandary after a disappointing display.
On the contrary the results gave India the ideal medicine for its ailing squad less than six weeks before the ultimate test starts in the Caribbean.
After enjoying one of their best runs in the shorter form of the game for the majority of 2006, West Indies wobbled at the finish and are now back to square one.
Following two impressive runners up finishes to perennial World champs Australia in the Champions Trophy and Malaysia Cup, which preceded a 4-1 humiliation of India at home, West Indies seemingly hinted at a revival just in the nick of time.
It was irrefutable proof of the team’s potential to be among the best in the world in limited overs competition.
But when it mattered most West Indies played true to form.
Their inconsistencies of the past returned and the jitters in the final rush for form on the World Cup’s homestretch touched almost every supporter.
They floundered 3-1 Pakistan and capitulated to India by an identical margin before a frenzied nation who was on the verge of hysteria most of 2006.
Yet from this distance the West Indians gave the impression of a team suffering the effects of over exposure. Many seemed drained from the thousands of miles of air travel and competition saturation.
After two months of fixtures hosting Zimbabwe and Pakistan at home and another two months contesting the Champions Trophy, Malaysia Cup followed by the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) stipulated series in Pakistan, they seemed to have had enough by the time they flew home for Christmas, contested a few Carib Cup and KFC regional games, and then traversed the Atlantic and India oceans back to the sub continent.
By that time though they started feeling the consequences.
Vice captain Ronnie Sarwan was stricken by a broken instep, captain Lara’s back and knee started acting up and Shiv Chanderpaul’s old injuries woes seemed to be returning.
After overcoming frequent illness early in his career, Chanderpaul found himself with a double whammy of knee and shoulder problems by the time he regained his appetite for runs in India.
Strike bowler Jerome Taylor had enough energy only to go through the motions, a far cry from the danger man tag he exhibited in the Champions Trophy.
Pakistan and India capitalized as a result.
In his haste to live up to his lofty reputation in Trinidad and Tobago and place the finances in a comfort zone, new West Indies Cricket Board President Ken Gordon finds himself in danger of shooting himself in the foot with his overuse of the team.
Player burnout has been the Achilles heel of many sports administrators in the past and the jury is still out on Gordon’s actions this time around.
Whether it was wise to push the players to the hilt, so close to a major competition, will be known in time.
Ironically while the India series was ongoing, the selectors were forced to turn to the Regional competitions to overcome their dilemma, less than two weeks before the final selection deadline.
While wicketkeeper Dinesh Ramdin did little to enhance his status in Asia, one of his younger Trinidad and Tobago compatriots was setting the Region ablaze with runs that would make any One Day team proud.
Nineteen year-old Kieron Pollard was only known in the junior ranks before making his first class debut last month. He was a member of the disappointing West Indies team than only managed sixth place in the Under-19 World Cup one year ago in Sri Lanka.
Now he is a valuable component of the Trinidad and Tobago senior team chasing titles in the Carib and KFC series.
He has struck more sixes than anyone in several years so far in this season and scores at electric pace with authentic cricket strokes. It has resulted in back to back debut centuries and a number of half centuries at the season’s half way point.
No member of the current West Indies except the legendary Lara, made as explosive an impact on debut and the WICB selectors will be loathe to exclude Pollard from their 15-man squad.
If Pollard’s impact was unexpected, the resurgence of Jermaine Lawson is a pleasant surprise. The once destructive fast bowler is now back to his best after injury and delivery action problems the past few years caused a decline. Now, his form should make him a shoo-in for the West Indies final 15.
He is by far the leading wicket taker this season, highlighted by back to back six and seven wicket hauls in the Carib Cup and his wicket-taking capabilities should be the ideal pairing for Taylor, even in One Day competition.
As the West Indies selectors scratch their heads, their Indian counterparts are licking their lips with glee with the emergence of Robin Uthappa and resurgence of Sourav Ganguly and Ajit Agarkar.
Uthappa seems capable of blunting any pace attack with his aggression on top of the order and an ideal replacement for Virenda Sehwag. Ganguly is back to his best in the middle and Agarkar is finding his best wicket taking form with the new ball.
If he had a choice, at this stage, Gordon Greenidge should gladly swap places with Dilip Vensarkar as chief selector of the two nations.