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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 15:22 GMT
Caribbean fire dies out
West Indies dominated world cricket from the mid-1970s through the 1980s
Fearsome foursome: Roberts, Holding, Croft, Garner
BBC Sport Online reflects on the decline of fast bowling in the West Indies.

It is 25 years since Joel Garner and Colin Croft made their Test debuts for West Indies against Pakistan in Bridgetown.

They claimed 58 wickets between them in a five-match series which Clive Lloyd's side won 2-1, and their arrival ultimately led to formation of arguably the most feared pace attack in Test history.

West Indies had fielded four seam bowlers in a Test before, but none the match the sustained hostility of Croft, Garner, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts.

Holding missed the Pakistan series due to injury, but over the next five years the quartet proved too much for almost everyone in Test cricket and Kerry Packer's World Series.

Garner took five for 38 in the 1979 World Cup final
Garner's yorker was a deadly weapon

Croft disappeared from the scene after the 1982 tour to Australia, but when India arrived in the Caribbean the following year, he had been replaced by the equally formidable Malcolm Marshall.

Carl Hooper is concerned with the present, not the past, but as he struggles in vain to revive the fortunes of an inexperienced West Indies side, he could be forgiven for thinking "If only.....".

Losing streak

The current side's batting line-up has attracted much comment, with the likes of Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Daren Ganga struggling to turn their undoubted talent into consistency at top level.

But perhaps they are under too much pressure to succeed because of the lack of devil among the current crop of pacemen.

A 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka, where not even Brian Lara's brilliance could save them, was followed by defeat in both Tests against Pakistan.

Only once in those five games has West Indies succeeded in bowling the opposition out for under 300 - Sri Lanka were all out for 288 in Kandy - and even then they lost the game by 131 runs.

Dillon playing against Australia
Dillon has been unable to plug the gap

Following Courtney Walsh's retirement last year, Merv Dillon is the most experienced member of the current attack.

But after 21 Tests and 60 one-day internationals, he has only taken five wickets in an innings once in each form of the game.

Cameron Cuffy and Pedro Collins have yet to achieve a 'five-for' in either white or maroon kit, and Corey Collymore's five for 51 in a one-day game in Colombo last December was a one-off.

Compare that to Croft's feat of taking eight for 29 in only his second Test or Garner's match figures of eight for 148 in his third.

Hall's search

Any one of Croft, Garner, Holding, Roberts and Marshall would be a huge asset in an under-achieving pace attack.

But all West Indies can do at the present time is work to improve the effectiveness of their current crop of fast bowlers, whilst hoping for a star to emerge from their junior ranks.

West Indies Cricket Board president Wes Hall, a world-class fast bowler in the 1960s, has admitted they no longer have anyone capable of bowling at 90mph.

Wes Hall is now head of the West Indies Board
Wes Hall: 192 wickets in Test matches

He believes they should concentrate on looking for players with the right physique, who can then be taught the art of fast bowling.

"Sometimes players are over-bowled at 13 or 14. Coaches are exuberant and often bowl fast men longer than they should.

"Sometimes it's best if they haven't bowled at all until they are 18, like I did," he said.

Numerous injuries to their fast bowlers have not helped the West Indies cause and steps are being taken to establish new fitness programmes.

But Croft recently told BBC Sport Online: "What has happened with the fitness thing is part of our deterioration in our cricket generally. We're not taking it seriously enough."

His career had its moments of controversy, notably when he barged into umpire Fred Goodall during a Test match in New Zealand.

An unsavoury incident, perhaps, but how West Indies must wish they had someone with the same fire in his belly now.

Pakistan take on the West Indies in Sharjah

One-day internationals

Second Test

First Test

Features

Florence in Sharjah

FIXTURES
See also:

18 Jan 02 | Cricket
24 Apr 01 | West Indies v South Africa
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