Wednesday, 30 December 2009

2009 Review (Cricket)

As I write, we are just a day and a few hours away from the end of the first decade of the 21st century. From the point of view of the cricket afficando, the noughties will be remembered as the decade when cricket underwent an extraordinary transformation- and I'm not talking about the IPL alone. Let's review the teams in alphabetical order.

Australia finish at No.3, a fair ranking of where they stand currently. Although the year has finished well for them, even the most optimistic Australian fan would have to admit that their performance left several questions hanging. They were forced to sweat and scrape by an unfancied West Indies side that was expected to be rolled over and handed back the ashes in a series where they seldom looked a side that could win. Never mind what statistics say, the fact remains that Australia condeded first innings leads of 210, 102 and 172. Several young players made a strong impression. Its likely that Australia will remain a very competitive side, but the days when they routinely smashed oppositions are long gone by.

For Bangladesh, 2009 marks a historic year. Two back to back test wins in the Carribean- their first ever wins abroad and first ever series win (against admittedly a second string West Indies side)- and a healthy Win loss ration in limited overs cricket capped a superb year for the perennial whipping boys of international cricket. Hopefully they can build on the momentum they gathered during the course of the year.

England end the year in a position that's a far cry from where they stood a year ago. As far as horrid starts go, England reached a new low with the Pietersen-Moores fallout that resulted in a massive blood letting, soon followed by the nadir of a thrashing at Jamaica that cost them the Wisden Trophy...for all of 69 days. But as has often happened with England, just when they seemed to have reached a point of no return, they sensationally bounced back with an Ashes win no one expected of them (especially after Australia beat the South Africans in their own backyard a few months before) and as I write, they're well placed for a crushing win and a 1-0 lead over South Africa at the mid way stage of a series there. They could conceivably push for No.1 in the near future, depending on whether they can continue the good work done over the last 9 months or so.

India finished the year sitting at the top as first among equals, if only just so. With a strong batting line up and a decent attack- surely the best attack any Indian side has ever had- they certainly look a side that can sustain a high level of performance, subject to their being able to find able replacements for their aging middle order. Unfortunately for the fans, India played a mere 6 tests in the year, but made a fine fist of it with a historic series win in New Zealand- their first in that country in 41 years- and a cruching 2-0 win over Sri Lanka. Having reached where no Indian side has even threatened to approach, the challenge for India is to build on their magnificent efforts over the last couple of years.

New Zealand had a mixed year, starting off with a disastrous home series against the Indians and ending with a 1-1 draw in a hard fought series with Pakistan. While their performance against Pakistan was heartening, the retirements of Bond and O'Brien poses a massive challenge for the future.

For Pakistan, 2009 was an imminently forgettable year. Already isolated from the world community due to growing security concerns, they had a new nadir thrust upon them by the abandonment of a home series against Sri Lanka at the mid way stage due to a terrorist outrage. A 1-1 draw against New Zealand showed that they could still be a competitive side. They went on to lose badly at Melbourne, but were by no means humiliated. The emergence of Umar Akmal and Mohammed Amir plus the return of Mohammed Asif were huge positives for them.

South Africa finished 2009 in a manner that mirrored England's. Starting off with a historic series win in Australia and their short lived rise to No.1, South Africa's fortunes sensationally nose-dived as the year progressed. A 1-2 reversal against the touring Australians began the slide and their performance in the series against England has done little to suggest that they are going to rediscover the highs of last December. Admittedly they had England 9 down in the second innings at Centurion, but they ultimately had only themselves to blame for it- taking 153 overs to score 418 in the first innings is simply inexcusable in this day and age. As I write, they're all set for a crushing defeat in the second test, with an attack that holds few horrors and a batting lineup that looks as predictable as Mitchell Johnson's bowling. At the end of the decade, they're a side in need of regaining lost ground and few sides are better equipped to do it.

Sri Lanka had a mixed year, like almost every other team going around. 2-0 wins over Pakistan and New Zealand propelled them to No.2 in the ICC rankings, but a 0-2 reversal against neighbours India saw them slide down to No.4. From a long term perspective, the decline of Muralidharan would be Sri Lanka's biggest worry, the fact that Ajantha Mendis ceased to be a mystery and seemed to go backward only compounded the situation. Another matter of grave concern for Sri Lanka has been their batting. Spectacular at home, their batsmen (Sangakkara apart) have failed to recreate the same magic abroad and the fact remains that nearly all their wins in recent times have been at home.

While other sides experienced fluctuating fortunes, West Indies had a year that showcased the best and worst in their cricket. A sensational 1-0 win over England- their first series win over quality opposition in nearly 7 years- promised to make it a memorable year, but the gains of that win were frittered away with a listless performance in England, where they handed back the Wisden Trophy they had fought so hard to regain, within ten weeks of having pulled it off. A players strike resulted in their fielding a second string side that promptly lost everything it played. Even for a decade that was dismal by any standards, the losses to Bangladesh was the unquestioned nadir, seemingly confirmed by a three day thrashing at Brisbane. But as it happened, they finally hit the resistance level, bouncing back to pull of superb performances in the remaining tests.

If they can replicate their outstanding performances over the last couple of years and avoid the kind of embarrasments they conjured up at Lords/ Brisbane earlier this year, West Indies will surely be a force to reckon with in the years to come. The arrival of Kemar Roach and Adrian Bharath were huge positives, as was their showing in Australia. I daresay the days when West Indies sides folded in without a fight are over- here finally is a side from the Carribean that seems determined to put the humiliations of the recent past behind it.

Overall, at the end of the decade the game is in a state of flux. There's no clear world No.1, nor does there appear to be a side that can remain at the top for any sustained period. The standard of the game is at its lowest since I started following the game and pitches are only of two types: dead and deader. The 2000s has been the decade of the batsmen, with several willow wielders boasting of 50+ averages (40 is no longer the benchmark of quality). Nevertheless, with batsmen increasingly playing their shots, draws have become fewer. There are at least 4-5 teams that could legitimately aspire to be in the top 3. For the first time in decades, there's the No.1 slot up for grabs for he that dares.

In short, the future could be exciting. How it turns out, only time will tell.

Friday, 11 December 2009

The Future of Test Cricket

Ever since the Indian Premier League took off in mid 2008, one of the most recurrent themes I've seen in the press has been the widespread fear for the future of test cricket. Hardly a day goes by, without someone expressing fears for the future of the traditional format of the game. So widespread has it become, that I too am beginning to wonder whether there may be something in it after all.

It reminds me of an incident that once happened to a friend of mine, who's a hardcore vegetarian. One of the guys in our group brought Macaroni for lunch and this chap, who had never seen or heard of it before, took an instant liking to it. Imagine his surprise when one of us told him that he'd just eaten chicken legs. As any intelligent person would do, he didn't believe it but he was reminded of it by so many people and with such frequency, that he actually started believing in it. I can't help likening the fears over the future of test cricket to the 'chicken legs'.

I for one never seriously believed in all the ruckus over the possibility of test cricket dying out. The scaremongers who fear it would do well to remember that the game has survived too many upheavals to die out so easily. Look at the sheer number of them: two world wars, the end of the British empire, the rise and fall of communism and fascism, the fall of aparthied...we could go on. Coming to more recent times, fears about the future of test cricket were also being voiced when one day cricket broke into the scene. What we have seen instead, is a democratisation of the game. Think of it: the top 3 consists of India, South Africa and Sri Lanka- two former colonies that were nowhere in the reckoning barely 20 years ago and one of them still a pariah in the world community.

In fact, I've just seen a headline in Cricinfo, that the BCCI has invited Cricket South Africa to play a two-test series in India in early 2010, removing two one-dayers to accomodate the tests. This pleasant surprise comes less than a week after West Indies and Australia contrived to produce a superb draw, less than a month after a nerve-wracking test between Pakistan and New Zealand and just days after India best Sri Lanka in a series where all three tests were played before healthy audiences. Add to it the prospect of the No.1 position, that has been a monopoly of almost throughout the last 3 decades, changing hands within a few weeks. In fact we're looking at the prospect of having a new No.1 every few months- a far cry from three decades of single team domination of the game. And yes, in the midst of all that I forgot to mention the rise of West Indies- to which I've dedicated an article earlier in this blog.

To me, test cricket has seldom been in better health. Yes the quality of cricket is currently lower than it has been in a long time, yes indeed there is no side to set a benchmark and granted that pitches have never been so loaded in favour of the batsmen at any time since the second world war. But was there ever an age in which there were fewer draws? Was a single-team dominance ever exciting- was it even remotely exciting to watch West Indies or Australia whitewash opposition teams in hopelessly mismatched series?

What is happening is a siesmic shift: new forces are emerging, society is changing and with it, naturally the manner in which the game is played is also evolving. Change frequently looks cataclysmic and is painful in the short run, but inevitable it is and the effects are not always harmful. Remember the fears of computers displacing labour? Look what computerisation has done for us. Periods of change need time and perspective to be fully understood and appreciated. Cricket is currently going through the transition. I daresay we will be looking back with amusement at these fears twenty years from now.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Analysing 90s Cinema

I grew up in the 1990s. I never realised it then, but it was a period of unprecedented change. Apartheid ended and the Soviet Union collapsed within the short space of a few months. Around the same time, the then Finance Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, announced a New Economic Policy which would usher in a silent and gradual revolution. Babri Masjid fell in 1992, ushering in a period of communal tension that affects India to this day. Meanwhile the new economic policies were beginning to change the lives of urban Indians. Suddenly telephone connection were taking weeks and not years to arrive, there were multiple television channels, the computer ceased to remain some exotic machine none of us had ever seen and Pepsi was no longer a roadside drink that used the names of a famous brand that didn't exist in India.

As a school/ college student growing up in those years, I never realised the nature and the sheer scale of the changes that were happening then and just how far reaching those changes would be. Still less did I realise how closely Bollywood movies actually reflected the changing times and the society struggling to come to grips with those changes. Having studied history, I know that all art is a stark reflection of the society that produces it and cinema- more than any other art form- is a mirror to the times.

One of the most striking features of Hindi movies from the 90s is that protagonists were always larger than life, heroic figures. In fact most of what was shown in movies never happened in real life. Ridiculous as most Hindi movies still are, present day movies are a lot more realistic than their counterparts from the 90s. Clearly, cinema was a form of escapism from life and so everything in it had to be a break from reality.

Good and evil were well defined and complete seperated. The characters were either idealistic or diabolical, vicious and villanous figures who had no scruples and not the least shade of decency. Seldom did one see a character with grey shades. Interestingly, the hero was usually a poor/middle class man and the villain frequently a devious businessman or a corrupt and/or power hungry politician. The two lived in completely different worlds, until circumstances sent their paths crossing. Typically the hero, initially a hapless, helpless man ends up fighting the unjust system and the villain's diabolical machinations to eventually emerge triumphant.

Thus in Krantiveer (1994), the hero Pratap (Nana Patekar) is the resident of a chawl, whose interests conflict with those of of Yograj (Tinu Anand), an influential builder who will stick at nothing to grab the land in which Pratap's colony stands, so that he can build a huge complex there- displacing thousands of poor people in the process- and make his millions. In terms of the themes explored, Krantiveer was the typical 90s movie. Witness how the leading politicians in the state are in cahoots with Yograj and at the same time, hand-in-glove with the dreaded underworld gangster Chatur Singh (Danny Denzongpa). Also witness the corruption of the policemen and how the lazy, indifferent Pratap suddenly realises that he needs to fight injustice when his mentor Laxmidas is murdered on the instructions of Yograj.

A variation on this theme was the hero being an honest policeman who falls victim to the corrupt system, becomes disillusioned, and eventually ends up fighting the very system which he was a part of. Akshay Kumar, the very embodiment of this category, played an honest policeman turned rebel in 3 movies released in the same year! Daava, Insaaf and Tarazu, all 1997 releases, featured the young Akshay Kumar as a frustrated young policeman and the villain in two out of the three was a politician. Another Akshay Kumar movie, Elaan (1994) saw him play son to an honest cop persecuted by the system for daring to act against an influential figure.

This theme was present even in romantic movies or family dramas. Typically the poor/ middle class boy would fall in love with a rich girl (or vice versa). The two would marry against the wishes of the family on the richer side, which would proceed to use every conceivable trick in the book to scuttle the marriage- frequently with the help of corrupt cops. Inder Kumar's Raja (1995) was the epitome of movies in this genre, with the poor Raja (Sanjay Kapoor) and Madhu (Madhuri Dixit) falling in love, with Madhu's brothers pretending to have accepted the relationship but in reality plotting to break their relationship.

The same theme took a slightly different variation in Raja Hindustani (1996), where it is the heroine's step mother who plots to scupper the marriage between the eponymous protagonist (Aamir Khan) and heroine (Karishma Kapoor) in order to secure the inheritance of the rich father's massive property. Notice how the protagonist, predictably a poor man, falls victim to the diabolical scheming of his wealthy in laws. Raj Kumar Santoshi's Damini (1993) saw a gender reversal, with the poor heroine (Meenakshi Sheshadri) being persecuted by her rich in laws with the connivance of a vicious lawyer and a corrupt policeman thrown into the fray.

Time and again, one feature that sticks out is an anti-establishment tone and a general feeling of disillusionment with the entire system- political, administrative and judicial. Its always the rich and powerful who embody evil and the poor/ middle class hero who embodies virtue. Perhaps it was a time when the common man had lost all faith in the government and all figures of authority. After all, the government functioned in an extremely non-transparent manner in those pre-RTI days. As an average Indian, you knew that you were caught up with a rotten system that impeded all progress and as a common man, there was nothing you could do about it. So all pervading was the corruption then, that it permeated pretty much every aspect of public life. The general feeling of powerlessness is all pervading in 90s cinema, neatly reflecting the prevailing mood in society at the time. Is it a coincidence that the rebellious, anti-establishment hero is usually shown mercilessly bashing the villain- invariably an influential and powerful figure?

It is also interesting to note that our 90s heroes are family men, committed to the larger interest of the family. Witness how Rishi Kapoor's Shekhar willingly sacrifices his love in the larger interests of his family in Damini (1993) or Akshay Kumar's Karan Joglekar seeks revenge and redemption for his brother who has been murdered and charged with corruption in Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994). In the blockbuster movie Baazigar (1994), Ajay Sharma (Shah Rukh Khan) sets out to avenge the ruining of his family by Madan Chopra (Dilip Tahil). Another Shah Rukh Khan superhit, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995) shows the protagonist Raj unwilling to take the heroine away without the consent of her parents. Family once again occupies the centerpiece in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994)-one of the highest grossing films of the decade- a romantic family drama which is a celebration of the institution of the family.

It is remarkable that even the villain Jaichand (Raj Babbar) in Gambler (1997) has a near irrational attachment to his mentally retarded younger brother. Danny Denzongpa's Katya is heartbroken when he learns about the death of a younger brother in Ghatak (1997). The diabolical villain Chaudhary Charan Nath's sons show a reverential respect and attachment for their father in Sher-e-Hindustan (1998)- one of the countless unintentionally hilarious movies from the 90s.

I daresay the socio-economic changes happening in India at the time- with families increasingly fragmenting into nuclear families- severely threatened the old order. The recurring emphasis on traditional values- respect for elders, attachment to siblings, emphasising family over self- appealed to the sensibilities of a society increasingly struggling to come to terms with a new world. Few movies celebrated old Indian values as Subhash Ghai's Pardes (1997)- a blockbuster movie which in terms of its celebration of the old India and its denouncement of the 'decadent' west was every bit the self-congratulatory and jingoistic 'patriotic' movie from those times.

Which brings us to another theme: an underlying feeling of backwardness that we hated to admit. Jingoism was of course, the easiest way to deny it. Nevertheless, the feeling of backwardness keeps peeping out every now and then. Remember how the drunken man (Neeraj Vohra) claims to be a regular visitor to America in Rangeela (1995). It also turns up in the movie Betaabi (1997), when the heroine's father (Shakti Kapoor), surprised at the young visitor- fresh from the USA- proposing to his daughter at the very first meeting, comments that its that speed which makes Americans the world leaders.

Watch by contrast, how the protagonist Mohan Bhargav (Shah Rukh Khan) in Swadesh (2004) gets disgusted by the jingoistic talk of the village elders and points out the shortcomings in Indian society, stating that every culture has its own strengths and shortcomings. Clearly, between Pardes (which literally means abroad) and its successor a generation later, Swades (literally: one's own country) Indian society became more comfortable with itself- a contrast heightened by the fact that the protagonist in both movies was played by the same actor. Whereas Pardes was a celebration of the old, rapidly vanishing India, featuring a protagonist who remained undilutedly Indian despite growing up in the USA (i.e. insulated from the corrupting influences of western society), Swades speaks on behalf of a more confident, more self-conscious country where there is nothing morally wrong in a young man desiring to settle and make his career in the (no longer decadent) west.

One last theme worth exploring is the powerlessness that's so all-pervading in 90s cinema. The protagonist invariably has to defy a figure of authority, usually the system but also at time the authority of elders, who embody the values of another age. Zoom a generation ahead and you find characters who believe in self-empowerment. Whereas Ajay Chauhan (Ajay Devgan) has to fight the system and a villain who guessed it right, a corrupt politician in Gundaraj (1995), Michael Mukherjee (played by the same actor) is a young man who seeks to enter politics to improve things from inside in Yuva (2004). Note how the same actor, who is fighting the system a generation earlier is now looking to change that very system from the inside by becoming part of it.

The same message is conveyed by the protagonists in Rang de Basanti (2006), where Karan Singhania (Siddharth) in his radio address urges young men to join politics, the police, the administration and take over power bases to bring about a change. By now the hated 'other'- the politician- has become a product of the same society to which we belong and, by co-extension, one among us. With the educated middle class rapidly swelling in numbers, we see echoes of a society that increasingly believes in the future and believes in the power to change things for the better.

Doubtless, scholars may discern many more undertones in the future. I am no scholar, nor have I undertaken any research in writing this article. As a person who grew up in the 90s and knew what it was to live through that period, these are my readings from cinema of that period. As I see it, inequality, powerlessness and socio-economic change- the three currents that affected social life in the 90s were reflected in the cinema of the time.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Symonds: a man disfavoured

Its little over 24 hours now, since Andrew Symonds was sent back home for his latest transgression. The Chief Executive of Cricket Australia (CA), James Sutherland, expressed his disappointment in and for Symonds. The latest blow could well mark the end of Symonds' somewhat tempestuous career.

And yet looking at all that at hindsight, I can't help feeling that Symonds has been an unfortunate man. I'm not making a case for him- I am myself no admirer of the man, but it's hard not to get the feeling that the officials and fellow players who have stood by him all along did Symonds a far greater disfavour than any of his opponents (Harbhajan Singh included).

The number and details of his off field misdeameanours are too widely known to merit repetition, the latest being- ironically- the least of them. Unfortunately for him, his team mates and board officials indulged him for way too long. A lot of transgressions were expediently overlooked, simply because he was too valuable a player to be lost. To put it bluntly, his team mates and the officials at CA were more concerned about Symonds' ability to win games than his personal welfare.

The tipping point came perhaps in the aftermath of monkeygate. We all know what happened: Symonds felt upset at being called a 'monkey', which is apparently a huge insult for people of African origin (I cannot really claim to appreciate it- there are effectively no Africans in India) and pressed for charges or racial abuse. His teammates backed him and Cricket Australia, ever too keen on indulging its perennial problem child, duly obliged.

Viewing the facts superficially, Symonds had a every reason to be offended. However, one important fact that was conveniently forgotten was that Andrew Symonds had gone out of his way, completely unprovoked, to abuse an opposing player who was known to be a hot-head. Australians perhaps did not realise that unprovoked abuse is considered extremely insulting in Indian culture. Whatever the truth, the fact of the matter is that the Australian players and board administrators went all out to indulge the ego of a man who had provoked the entire unfortunate incident in the first place. What did they convey thereby? That anything he did was fine by them, isn't it? After all, Cricket Australia had overlooked far bigger transgressions than that.

The sequence of events that followed swiftly unfolded: the BCCI used its financial muscle to ensure that a valuable player was not lost. For all the controversy that the BCCI's actions generated, it would be worth remembering that, like its Australian counterpart, it too stood by a valuable player and one who if not exactly innocent, was by no means the instigator of the incident. In essence, the BCCI did pretty much what CA did- and its hard not to get the feeling that the outcome of the entire episode would have been a lot different had it happened twenty years back.

The damage it did to Symonds was incalculable and understandably so. The problem man who had always had his way around, whose every transgression had hitherto been indulged in suddenly found his employers backing down in the face of what would surely be a massive financial loss had India gone through with the threat of pulling the plug on the tour. Self-interest, the very reason that had so far justified overlooking Symonds' repeated misdemeanours, was now working against him. The blow up that followed in the months that followed if not inevitable, was pretty much a logical end to the entire unfortunate episode. If that wasn't bad enough, before the end of the year CA hastened to recall him when it was pretty clear that Symonds' head was still not quite in the right place.

While a thousand post-mortems will be done and, in the years that follow, hundreds of articles will be written on what might have been, Symonds will remain a striking example of a man who was as much let down by his friends, as he let them down. Had even one of his teammates taken him aside and pointed out his errors, the Symonds story might well have been a lot different.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

West Indies on the Mend

The much hyped decline of West Indies cricket, seemingly never ending, started back in the early 90s or possibly even in the late 80s. Although 1995 is considered a watershed, I'm inclined to believe that '95 was not not so much an event, as it was the culmination of a process that had started well before it became apparent. For lack of definitive information (I was still a schoolkid back then, with little knowledge of the game), let me add that what I have written so far is conjecture.

Having said that, I am now going to stick my neck out and say that West Indies is a team on the ascent today. I run the risk of being laughed at, but I believe that the trend I've recently noticed will soon become apparent to a much wider audience. As a team, West Indies have been on the mend since some time now and assuming they keep progressing this way, its just a matter of time before they will be a pretty competitive side.

The first signs appeared in South Africa last season, when West Indies won a test match there- unprecedented in their history. Granted, things lapsed back to normal thereafter but West Indies winning a test abroad against quality opposition is well nigh unheard of for people of my generation who never witnessed the mighty West Indies sides of the 80s. That win too might have been written off as a one-off, but for their performance against Sri Lanka at home a few months later.

It may be recalled that the hosts lost the first test of the series. The second test threw up signs of a new-found determination. With just one half-century (57 by Sarwan), they took a small lead in the first innings and had to chase 253 on a tough wicket against an attack that boasted of Murali and Vass on a sub-continent like wicket. To the surprise of all who cared to watch West Indies and Sri Lanka in action, the hosts chased it down comfortably. Still more surprisingly, Chanderpaul was not the sole contributor.

Then came the Aussies. Everyone remembers that they took the series 2-0. Look beneath the result, and the real picture was somewhat different. Remember the scenes at Sabina Park that may evening? Walking out all guns blazing with a 119-run lead behind, the Kangaroos came out looking to smash their hosts out of the game. Amidst scarcely credibly scenes, the World champions came crashing to 17-4. The assault from the West Indies pacemen brought back memories from a bygone age when West Indian sides bludgeoned opponents into submission. Their experience saw Australia home eventually, but it was evident that this West Indies team, unlike their predecessors since the mid 90s were not going down without a fight.

After a hard fought draw, the Australians took complete control of the final game, setting their hosts a seemingly impossible 475 to win. Recent form dictated that West Indies would fold in meekly to a crushing defeat. Instead, the West Indians came out looking a side that actually believed the target was gettable. At 300-3, the Australians were staring at the possibility of a possible embarassment. Eventually the self-doubt of the hosts and the self-confidence of the tourists titled the scales. Normalcy had been restored, but for the discerning viewer, it was evident that something had changed: West Indies were supposed to meekly surrender. They were not supposed to fight tooth and nail and make the best team in the world stretch hard for victory, but that's precisely what we were witnessing.

And coming to more recent times, West Indies have only just returned from a tour of New Zealand with a 0-0 draw. Perhaps New Zealand is not the best of opponents and a draw against them isn't quite the kind of result one would be bragging about, but is it a coincidence that it was the first time West Indies were coming back from a tour abroad (Bangladesh and Zimbabwe just don't count) without losing guessed it right, 1995.

Its true that they have not beaten quality opposition in an away series in over a generation and have won few tests even at home in recent years. But whereas West Indies sides of recent years have been an imminently floggable lot, surrendering abjectly without the least vestige of a fight, Gayle's team looks a side that's determined to make its mark. They look a team that's not going to surrender without a fight. A Little more of that spirit and some self-confidence could see them recapture some of the glories of the past.

West Indies may never recapture the glories of old. They may never again be a champion side going without a series defeat for 15 years, but they could be a very competitive side and who knows, a formidable side in some years. Sounds premature, doesnt it? But did anyone make such predictions for Australia when they won a dead rubber at Sydney in 1987? How many people spoke about West Indies' decline after their back from behind win in Australia in 1992-93? Sometimes reality is not so apparent, but it is there to be seen, realised only at hindsight.

Mark my words, West Indies is back.