For around 15 years, West Indies were kings of the world. They were unbeaten in 29 consecutive Test series between 1980 and 1995, and of the 115 matches that comprised, lost only 15.
In the light of subsequent events – of their most recent 115 they have lost 60 – this was remarkable in itself. What made it more extraordinary was that they did it in almost total silence.
West Indies’ fast bowling was relentless and glorious, their batting disciplined and buccaneering. They might have been trying to knock your block off but they never raised a voice. They barely lifted an eyebrow.
Those days have long gone in every sense. It is now obligatory, it seems, to play with a perpetual snarl. The latest, entirely predictable example involved David Warner of Australia having a spat with Rohit Sharma of India.
Warner was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for behaviour contrary to the spirit of the game, a sanction he accepted despite later trying to excuse his actions. His approach to Sharma for taking a run from an overthrow during the one-day international between their sides on Sunday was gratuitous, unnecessary and based on a misconceived interpretation of events.
It is merely the latest in a growing recent line of unsavoury incidents. Warner is one of the leading protagonists, though he is not alone. There is no player at present more articulate with a bat in his hand, few more athletic in the field, yet this seems to give him little joy.
“If somebody gets on the wrong side of me I’m not going to back down,” he said yesterday. This conveniently overlooks the fact that he approached Sharma, who was quite within his rights to take the run. Nor does it explain why he should become embroiled in the first place, thus giving him something not to back down from.
Warner is a member of an Australia team who make a virtue of sailing close to the line. It is part of their strategy. But India and England also conduct themselves in an unprepossessing way.
Jimmy Anderson, a wonderful swing bowler, has won 99 Test caps and almost as many for snarling. It is, he contends, what makes him the bowler he is. But he looks and sounds preposterous and unconvincing.
India are no innocents abroad. England’s Test series victory against them last summer was marred by Anderson’s constant griping and his encounter with Ravi Jadeja at Trent Bridge. It is the behaviour of yobs and it is condoned if not encouraged. Soon enough, it will lead to physical violence on the field.
Nobody with the game at heart wants it to become a spectacle where the only exchanges are along the lines of “After you, Claude”, “No, after you”, but it is hopelessly misguided in its present confrontational guise.
Not long after Warner’s grotesque intervention in Brisbane, A B de Villiers hit 149 from 44 balls for South Africa against West Indies. As he left the field, his opponent Chris Gayle bowed to him admiringly. West Indies might lose much more often these days but they still have style.Reuse content