Post-Imperial Preference

By Barnes, Simon | The Spectator, March 6, 1999 | Go to article overview

Post-Imperial Preference


Barnes, Simon, The Spectator


WE had eight players. They had 11 and were naturally eager to start straight away. I was stalling, playing for time, waiting for the US cavalry to appear on the skyline. And after a while they did. 'Ah,' I said. `Here comes our captain with the opening attack.'

The strapping white chap held no terrors for the Nicky Bird XI, but he was flanked by two equally strapping black chaps. `Oh Christ,' said Nicky, more in prayer than blasphemy. `And one of them', I said, rubbing it in, `is called Elvis.'

We won, of course, with Elvis prompting most of the opposition to take guard rather closer to the square leg umpire than is the normal practice; I, as wicket-keeper, taking my stance a few feet inside the boundary.

That moment of terror on seeing the skin colour of the two bowlers was something to savour. Caribbean roots, you see - pace like fire. All black cricketers had something of the mantle of the West Indies in those days: the best team in the world, perhaps the best ever, and certainly the most ruthless.

The same terror and defeatism that swept over poor Mr Bird in the moment of sighting the opening attack was something shared by the England cricket team, indeed by every cricket team in the world. West Indies were the rulers of the world, the masters of the universe. But now their cricket team is a dishevelled laughing-stock - dysfunctional, disunited and disaffected.

They have a captain, Brian Lara, who is in love with the captain's office without any love for the captain's task. Lara was briefly the best batsman in the world; some said the best ever. But he has become a strutting, pouting parody of himself, retained as captain partly because they could not think of anybody else, partly because nobody could bear yet another row. …

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