Eighteen years on, West Indies’ thrashing by Australia in the first Test in Hobart last weekend bears uncanny similarities to their predecessors’ routs in all three Tests in Pakistan in November and December 1997. It is a case of the more things change, the more they remain the same in West Indies cricket.
Even several of the West Indies’ main characters from the Pakistan whitewash are still involved. Clive Lloyd, then manager, is now chief selector. Courtney Walsh, the captain at the time, is selector on tour in Australia. Curtly Ambrose, Walsh’s fearsome partner in pace, is the team’s bowling consultant. Head coach Phil Simmons batted in the middle order in Pakistan, Stuart Williams opened. They were in Hobart as head coach and his assistant.
Grenada prime minister Keith Mitchell remains in the thick of things. After Pakistan, he was concerned enough to press CARICOM (Caribbean Community) governments to discuss the state of West Indies cricket. He now heads the CARICOM sub-committee on cricket and is the prime mover behind the recent damning Barriteau report on the governance of the West Indies Cricket Board.
The teams in Pakistan and Australia both went into their assignments unsettled by off-field upheavals. The issue prior to Pakistan was the captaincy; it was never far below the surface.
The problems leading into Australia were the confusion over the suspension and subsequent reinstatement of head coach Simmons, a matter initially triggered by the contentious omission of the ever-dependable Shivnarine Chanderpaul from the two Tests against Australia in the Caribbean in June.