West Indies must pick substance over style to replace Jacobs

Ridley Jacobs returned home to Antigua yesterday, leaving the West Indies team almost certainly for the last time and creating a void that cannot be easily filled.

Ridley Jacobs returned home to Antigua yesterday, leaving the West Indies team almost certainly for the last time and creating a void that cannot be easily filled.

Jacobs underwent what was described in an official statement as "minor knee surgery" in Manchester last Friday. Although it went no further than to add that he would be "out of competitive cricket for six weeks", it amounted to a virtual declaration of an end to the stalwart wicket-keeper's international career after six years and 65 Tests.

Jacobs had already been dropped for next month's ICC Champions Trophy by selectors who recognised the wear and tear the game's most physically demanding position had taken on his aging muscles and bones.

In the 15 consecutive Tests he played since last November, he had crouched behind the stumps to ineffective bowling attacks for an average of 166 overs a match.

Seven times, relief came only after the opposition had amassed over 500, twice in his two matches in this series. No other Test keeper has had to cope with such a crushing workload. The wonder is that some part of his body had not packed it in before last week.

By the time the West Indies restart their international programme after a lengthy break following the Champions Trophy - in the one-day series in Australia next January - Jacobs will be 37, not an age for wicketkeepers to restart their careers.

At a time when the opposite is true, Jacobs was all substance, little style.

He was not taken with the trappings of sporting stardom. He was not bedecked in gold necklaces and sparkling earrings. Designer sunglasses were not for him. He did not seek attention.

What you saw was what you got, an honest cricketer quietly doing his job as best he could in a team so troubled that he played under three captains and four coaches.

The true measure of his success is revealed by his overall figures. His batting average of 28.31 is not far short of the 31.94 of Jeffrey Dujon, justifiably considered the best batsman among long-serving West Indies keepers, and well above Deryck Murray's 22.91.

If he lacked Dujon's athleticism and Murray's safe glovework, there were few misses among his 229 dismissals.

Yet his first Test match was delayed until his 31st birthday by selectors who did put style before substance while shuffling David Williams, Junior Murray and Courtney Browne in the search for Dujon's successor.

Now they have to search once more. Jacobs has given them the perfect example of what they should be looking for.

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