Once a powerhouse, West Indies is on a downward spiral spelling trouble for Test Cricket’s future

“We have lost the fear factor. … The teams knew they couldn’t beat us.” You could hear the lament in the voice of former captain Darren Sammy, who in October was describing to me the spiral of the West Indies during the T20 World Cup.

But Sammy, who captained the West Indies to T20 World Cup titles in 2012 and 2016, could easily have been speaking out about the team’s plight in Test cricket after a disastrous 2-0 series against Australia. .

Ahead of their first Test series against Australia since 2015-16, there was some hope that the West Indies could be competitive after series wins against England and Bangladesh earlier in the year.

But those wins came at home on slower surfaces, which are conditions the West Indies are pretty good enough to play in, but at their graveyard site in Australia, where they haven’t won a Test match since February 1997, they offered little. endurance.

Australia feasted on listless bowling, even though, to be fair, the West Indies suffered from injuries, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered much. The West Indies were totally outplayed and outplayed, culminating in a dismal 419-run thrashing in the second Test after being beaten for 77 in their second innings.

Worryingly, there wasn’t much of a fight for a team trying to prove their competitiveness away from home. And to show that they are worthy of playing more regularly against Australia, who traditionally have little time for smaller nations.

In a quirk of the World Test Championship cycle, the West Indies will return to Australia next summer for another series of Tests. You can be sure that the state associations will not want to host the West Indies, who have not won a Test in their 16 attempts in Australia, 14 of them having been defeats.

Next summer could be a tough sell with Pakistan the other side set to travel Down Under and their record in Australia is somehow even worse than the West Indies with 14 straight losses stretching back over two decades.

But they do have at least a few draw cards in contrast to West Indies, who are sadly short on big names despite several decent players in the lineup.

Its lack of dynamism, a complete reversal of its glory years from the mid-’70s to the mid-’90s, was underscored by very little marketing given to a series that felt like a glorified warm-up for blockbuster. of three. series of matches between Australia and South Africa that begins in Brisbane on December 17.

The West Indies have not been particularly good at Test cricket for 25 years. The truth is, they will likely never reach those heights again given the irresistible financial lure of franchised T20 leagues.

To be sure, the West Indies have outstanding players in T20 cricket, though most of them are retired from international cricket or past their prime. West Indies, currently, isn’t particularly good in any format.

While there is hope of a rebound in the shorter formats, sustained success for Test cricket remains elusive and it is no exaggeration to suggest that its future is bleak in the format.

Although they are not alone. For some time, the powerful operatives of the International Cricket Council have pondered the long-term sustainability of a format treasured among purists but rather archaic.

The prevailing view is that Test cricket will eventually only be played between a handful of countries with the main series to remain intact, while the rest of the calendar will be peppered with franchise T20 leagues.

With the T20 format being the growth engine of the sport, paying off in the recent T20 World Cup, Test cricket is likely to be only for the old guard, particularly in Australia and England, countries where the format remains hugely popular.

India is also dedicated, though one wonders if the expected lengthening of the money-making Indian Premier League will erode this.

But emerging cricket countries are not investing in the expensive Test format with the current number of 12 Test-playing countries unlikely to expand, perhaps ever.

Smaller Test-playing nations like the West Indies could also pull the pin on the format because what will really be the point of clinging to the illusion of recapturing its heyday that is already stretching two decades ago.

It’s a shame for Test traditionalists, but it’s a snapshot of what cricket could look like in decades to come.

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