Roberts' advice falls on deaf ears

Tony Cozier says the tourists should add subtlety to their armoury
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The Independent Online
CURTLY AMBROSE and his colleagues will lose no sleep over the predictable and pretentious brouhaha over their tactics at Old Trafford.

Intimidation has always been an essential part of fast bowling and it is ludicrous for giants, such as the West Indies have possessed for so long, not to utilise their God-given advantage. When they go too far, the law is there to be implemented in order to protect contestants from injury, in much the same way that a boxing referee might step in to protect a fighter from unnecessary harm.

It is pertinent that the complaints rarely come from opposing batsmen, whose attitude was aptly summed up by Steve Waugh, the courageous Australian who has had more than his fair share of bodyline in his time. "It's Test cricket. It's tough. If you want an easy game, take up netball," Waugh said after a particularly intense day in Trinidad in April. Graham Thorpe expressed similar sentiments after his outstanding innings on Friday.

What should concern the West Indian quick quartet rather more is the monotony of the strategy that has now been repeatedly exposed on true pitches. Their coach, Andy Roberts, took up his post only last February and his beard has already become noticeably greyer.

His sage advice to his charges - to pitch a full length - has had no visible effect and, after Australia had ended the West Indies' remarkable record of 15 years of Test invincibility in May, he was moved to moan: "The bowlers just won't listen to me." And Roberts is widely acknowledged as one of the shrewdest of all fast bowlers.

In the Kingston Test that decided the series, Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and the two Benjamins kept pounding the ball into the rock-hard surface and aiming at the batsman's body. The Waugh twins bobbed and weaved and successfully rode the bouncers; Steve got 200, Mark 126 and Australia amassed a total of 531.

Striving for effect, the pacers not only wore themselves out but overstepped the front crease 30 times. If they chose not to hear Roberts, perhaps they should lend an ear to a few of their Australian opponents, such as Mark Taylor.

"We handled the short-pitched stuff better," the Australian captain said. "We knew it was coming, we weren't intimidated by it and even though we got hit a few times we gritted our teeth and got on with it."

That is precisely what England did here and will continue to do unless there is more subtlety in the West Indies' attack.