An ode to the stoical West Indies fan

11:34 am on 30 November 2017

By Matt Richens

Opinion - It's a tough gig being a Black Caps fan.

Fans at The Cloud welcome the Black Caps back to New Zealand.

Fans at The Cloud welcome the Black Caps back to New Zealand. Photo: RNZ

We've had Jesse Ryder issues, captaincy scandals, openers with scared-of-runs-itis, Ryder again, Doug Bracewell's had problems, Tim Southee's batting, batting capitulations, little-brother syndrome against Australia and too many injuries at key times to key players to worry about.

We've had the Chris Cairns scandal come and go with a high-profile court case, the Lou Vincent one just come, issues on tour in the West Indies, players unhappy with coaches, players unhappy with other players and players being naughty in South Africa.

Chris Cairns arrives at Southwark court on Friday the 30th of November 2015

Chris Cairns arrives at Southwark court on 30 November 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

And many, many, many more.

Through all this what have we had to celebrate? A 2000 Champions Trophy win, gutsy but ultimately unfruitful 1992 and 2015 home World Cup campaigns, and a handful of impressive individual and team performances worth still talking about.

Thankfully the White Ferns have won a World Cup.

Through all that hardship, come November we roll back out as fans, many of us with an ill-fitting team top from the past wrapping around our ever-supportive bodies. Suckers for punishment we may be, but most of us love this team and want them to do well.

As hard as it can be to be a Black Caps fan, spare a thought for the West Indies' supporters, if there are many left. The above pales in comparison to what those poor buggers have been through.

A disappointed West Indies cricket fan.

A disappointed West Indies cricket fan. Photo: Photosport NZ

They've been a cot-case in recent times and while those times are hopefully starting to be put behind them, we've said that far too many times to say it with any conviction.

Where to start? On the park they've been a rabble; since 2000, the once-mighty West Indies have played 174 tests. They've won 34 for a winning percentage of 19.54 percent. They lose 52.87 percent of the time.

In the 1980s they won 52.55 percent of their tests and lost 9.76 percent.

The numbers make for worse reading when you add the fact that Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were given test status after the West Indies' dominance (late 1970s to early 1990s) ended.

Of their 34 test wins since 2000, 15 have been against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh: teams everyone beats.

Taking wins against those two out, the West Indies have won just three tests away from home since the turn of the century, though one was against England in August.

Their last series win away from home against teams other than Zimbabwe or Bangladesh was in 1995.

The current Black Caps squad averages 10 more tests than their counterparts despite having two potential debutants in the squad and three more players with fewer than 10 tests to their credit.

The Windies' off-field stubborn feud with the board and battles over pay have led to a number of senior players walking and preferring to ply their trade in the T20 leagues.

Of note, there are plenty of West Indies cricketers who are still playing, but not in New Zealand with the test side. They include former captains Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Darren Sammy as well as Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine.

The international career of West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul is over.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul Photo: Photosport

That has cost the side valuable leadership.

The current New Zealand squad is relatively light on test caps and the squad averages just under 30, but they have players who have been around and can help shape the side.

Players like Ross Taylor, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Kane Williamson help newer players know what's expected, which helps with continuity.

The West Indies don't have that and have shown time and time again they lack the composure, patience and experience to consistently be competitive in test cricket.

West Indies cricketer Evin Lewis.

West Indies cricketer Evin Lewis. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

There are more theories on the once great side's demise including greed of some players, pitches in the Caribbean that aren't as conducive to fast bowling, the pull of other sports including American sports, football and athletics in the area and a lack of top players which thwart the aspiration of younger players.

There is hope. The West Indies are the current under-19 World Cup champions and they did pinch a test off England in Leeds over the Kiwi winter.

But unless the administrators in the game can sort themselves out, there's still a worry that when some of the current crop - or those below them - get good enough, they'll turn their back on the test side like so many have before them.

Sadly, the West Indies are a side pitied by many now. As bad as it can be to be Black Caps fan, the West Indies are proof things could be a whole lot worse.

* Matt Richens has been a sports journalist for a third of his 36-years. He once wore a pull shot from Brendon McCullum while fielding at short-leg. Sadly, that is his claim to fame on the field.

West Indies players Jason Holder with Shai Hop  and Sunil Ambris during Day 1 of the warm-up Cricket match against New Zealand on Saturday.

West Indies players Jason Holder with Shai Hop and Sunil Ambris during Day 1 of the warm-up Cricket match against New Zealand on Saturday. Photo: Photosport NZ

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