Brian Lara's team, 4-0 down entering the fifth Test at Centurion Park, Pretoria, today, have mirrored the England of Ian Botham and David Gower in the 1980s that suffered at the hands of those, ironically, led by the present manager, Clive Lloyd. Nor is there much to raise hopes that it can avoid the first such clean sweep in West Indies' history.
To those many woes, Lara has added yet another distraction to sidetrack his efforts, and those of the team management, to inspire his players for the final challenge.
"It has been a difficult situation because, for the first time, the selectors have named a one-day squad while the Test series is still on the go," he said yesterday. "Some of the guys who are here for the Test series are not going to be here for the one-dayers and this, psychologically, will have a negative effect on them."
Once more, the West Indies are likely to be without one of their two great bowlers, this time Curtly Ambrose. The burden of too much intense cricket has been increasingly evident in his body language and he went down with the identical hamstring muscle strain in the fourth Test last week that left his veteran partner, Courtney Walsh, writhing in pain in the closing stages of the third.
Walsh has had two weeks to mend and three days of nets have persuaded him that he is ready to return for his 106th Test, but it would be too risky to include Ambrose as well.
Instead, Reon King, the 23-year-old Guyanese, will be obliged to fill the breach for his Test debut 24 hours after flying in yesterday morning along with the three other replacements for the one-day series - Keith Arthurton, Keith Semple and Neil McGarrell.
It all epitomises the misery that has dogged the West Indies throughout this series. In contrast, South Africa's premier fast bowler, Allan Donald, yesterday passed a fitness test on his hamstring strain and will be ready to torment his opponents again in an unchanged team.
SOUTH AFRICA: G Kirsten, H H Gibbs, J H Kallis, D J Cullinan, *W J Cronje, J N Rhodes, S M Pollock, M V Boucher, A A Donald (or L Klusener), D J Terbrugge, P R Adams. 12th man: A G Prince.
WEST INDIES (from): D Ganga, P A Wallace, *B C Lara, S Chanderpaul, C L Hooper, S C Williams, F L Reifer, R D Jacobs, N A M McLean, R N Lewis, C E L Ambrose, M Dillon, F A Rose, J R Murray, C B Lambert, K L Arthurton, K F Semple, R D King, N McGarrell.