Cricket: England Must Work Hard to Get Past West Indies

Delorean GrayContributor IJanuary 25, 2009

For England, this upcoming tour is important. Not simply, as the next team England will face in test cricket is Australia.

This tour's primary purpose is to be cathartic. The last two times the England team have been in the region, controversy has abounded.

The world cup in 2007 was a non stop shamozzle; however, Pedalogate will be everyone’s overriding memory of the event from an English perspective.

Oh, and someone tells me something about a match for a sum of money on England’s post-season holiday. The less said of that the better. England also have the wounds caused by hacking off their own arm and disposing of both captain and coach.

Dr. Flower and Mr. Strauss (If anyone were to be the consultant surgeon it is he) must be the medics to cure England’s sunshine based ills if England are to succeed.

Doom and gloom need not abound, for all the modernity of Moores and Pietersen, the Strauss era has a distinctly old school feel to it.

Back in the days before laptops, the switch hit and when 20 over cricket was something played by honest club players on summer evenings, not a vulgar circus for enough wonga to buy a small hospital, the captain was king.

A tour manager would take care of the logistics and the bar bills and the captain would worry about the tactics and team selection.

As India showed when touring England in 2007, sometimes a coach is a complication too far. If this new English order works, it could be a winning formula.

The interplay between Strauss and his predecessor will be examined ad nauseam. Strauss’s belief that Pietersen will get "millions of runs" is possibly a little overhyped even for someone such as Pietersen; however, it‘s not that wide of the mark.

He is a member of a distinct group of cricketers who are able to play the game how they want to play and sheer presence alone will make the other 21 players follow their tune.

Botham was onesuch, in 2005 Flintoff was another and from the Windies there is of course one Sir IVA Richards.

A perfect riposte to all the criticism that Pietersen has received recently would be a century in the first match in Jamaica; I for one wouldn’t bet against it.

As England have learnt over the last two years. One man cannot carry a team. Of England’s test squad, Stuart Broad is one who I believe to be key in the Caribbean.

The young all-rounder, who permanently looks like he should have a surfboard tucked under his arm, has had a successful start to his test career so far however now is the time where he will show if he is to be a great player or simply a good one.

The pitches here will help his tall pace bowling as will the fragility of some of the West Indies batsmen.

Of those maroon marauders, Xavier Marshall is the one who in a similar position to Broad. Picked when just 18 for one dayers in Australia the young Jamaican will be looking to build on his two fifties from his six tests.

For so long, the West Indies were carried across the broadened shoulders of Lara now Marshall is coming towards a stage where he can choose to work hard towards carrying the mantle of being one of the key figures in the side, or he can slip into the category of enigma like many others before him.

Another interesting figure is that of Brendan Nash, the first white player to represent the West Indies since Geoff Grendidge. Nash comes to the West Indies having been born in Western Australia; however, he claims to have been conceived in Jamaica before his parents emigrated.

Nash qualifies through the virtue of his father who was a swimmer for Jamaica. Nash is scheduled to Bat at 6 in this series, often a hard position to score vast amounts from. It will be interesting to see how he marshals the tail, along of course with Chanderpaul the Guyanese limpet extraordinaire who has so often thwarted England.

Overall, the West Indies should not be underestimated as players who featured in the Stanford match, such as spinner Sulieman Benn and the ever improving all rounder Jerome Taylor, along with the cool captaincy of Chris Gayle mean England will have to work hard to claim victory.