Apathy reigns as Gayle finally jets in

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The Independent Online

The concept of Test cricket as the pinnacle of the game will come under severe strain at Lord's this week. There are two problems: the indifference of some of the players and the apathy of the spectators. That apart, everything is hunky dory with the first Test between England and West Indies starting tomorrow.

Chris Gayle, the tourists' captain, at last arrived in the country yesterday, 48 hours before he will go out to toss. Not that he will be doing so in a stadium exactly brimming with people and expectation since only 12,000 tickets have been sold for the first day.

"It's not ideal preparation as I've said many times but it's something we just have to work with," said John Dyson, West Indies' coach. "Chris tells me he feels in good form but the medical opinion is definitely that it takes two days to adjust."

Gayle has been playing for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League and was given permission to extend his stay at the weekend. He took a flight from Port Elizabeth on South Africa's south coast after their victory. He arrived a day behind his team-mate, fast bowler Fidel Edwards who has been with the Deccan Chargers in the IPL.

They stayed because their No Objection Certificates granted by the West Indies Cricket Board allowed them to do so, but it puts in to perspective their approach to a series in England that nobody truly wanted. West Indies are here as third choice behind Zimbabwe, who no longer play Tests and Sri Lanka, who eventually declined. But England would have lost between £10m and £15m by not having the series, which they claim would affect grassroots investment. Their television deal also demanded it. But empty seats and a desultory attitude will only grievously harm the game.

*Andrew Strauss and Claire Taylor were named last night as England's players of the year. Strauss was honoured after taking over as captain at a difficult time and rediscovering his batting form, and Taylor was the key member of England women's World Cup winning team.